The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 21st December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government:
- what steps they are taking to ensure that cash access remains viable in the most remote parts of the UK.
- further to the introduction of shared banking hubs in larger towns in the UK, what assessment they have made of level of cash access those in the most rural areas can expect to have in the future.
- what steps they are taking to support people who rely solely on cash to (1) access cash, and (2) access digital banking alternatives to cash.
Lord Harlech (Con): The government recognises that while the transition towards digital banking and payments brings many opportunities, cash continues to be used by millions of people across the UK, including those who may be in vulnerable groups.
The government is currently taking legislation to protect access to cash across the UK through Parliament as part of the Financial Services and Markets Bill 2022. The legislation will establish the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as the lead regulator for access to cash with responsibility and powers to seek to ensure reasonable provision of withdrawal and deposit facilities.
As part of its responsibilities, the FCA will be granted powers to seek to address any local deficiencies in the provision of access to cash facilities that it has identified and considers to be significant. The government’s view is that this will allow for consideration of local circumstances in all parts of the UK, including in relation to rural areas. This will result in a regulatory framework that will support the ongoing assessment of cash needs and provision at both a nationwide and local level.
Following the government’s commitment to legislate, industry is working together to deliver new initiatives to provide shared access to cash services. To date, industry has committed to shared bank hubs in 29 locations across the UK and identified 18 further communities for piloting innovations in cash deposit services. Communities can request an assessment of access to cash in their area by LINK using the LINK website.
There is a wide range of options to access everyday banking services, beyond branches, such as online, telephone banking, and the Post Office, reflecting wider changes in how consumers choose to bank. In 2021, 86% of UK consumers used a form of remote banking, such as an app, online or on the phone.
The government works closely with regulators, industry, and consumer groups to support financial inclusion, and is fully supportive of the ongoing work to deliver appropriate access to banking services, including industry initiatives to provide free digital skills training to help customers access online banking.