Consumers can request a free ATM in their community directly from operator Link
Consumers and community groups will be able to request a free-to-use ATM in their area directly from operator Link due to the launch of a new fund.
The Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund will be made available for requests for free-to-use ATMs in places with poor access and is part of measures aimed at tackling concerns that it is becoming harder for people to take out cash.
Those within communities who want to apply could include individual consumers, councils, community groups or MPs.
If people want to suggest a site they can email email@example.com.
If an application meets the criteria and there is a suitable location, Link will fund the new ATM directly.
There is £1 million in the pot so far, but more money could be released when needed.
Applications will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, depending on factors such as distance to nearest free ATM, the availability of a nearby Post Office and site security.
If there is another free cash machine within 1km within the community and no particular geographical challenges to reaching it, applications may be unlikely to be successful.
Link said the move builds on its commitment to protect free access to cash for every high street in the UK.
In August, Link announced five new pilot sites in Battle, Bungay, Nuneaton, Tywyn in Wales, and Durness in Scotland, where a new ATM would be directly commissioned.
These new ATMs will be funded by a levy on Link’s bank and building society members.
More sites that will get a free ATM have already been identified and are in Deal, Ebbw Vale, Margate, Middleton, Wilmslow and York.
John Howells, Link chief executive said: “This is an important development which will allow communities to directly contact Link and get things done to help consumers.
“Link is looking forward to getting the first requests for ATMs so we can help solve access to cash issues across the whole UK.”
The new fund complements the existing system where commercial operators decide whether a site is profitable.
ATM and bank branch closures have fuelled concerns about access to cash.
Recent research from Which? suggested that free-to-use cash machines are vanishing more quickly in deprived areas than in affluent ones.
Which? also found that around a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut within the past five years alone.
Hundreds more which remain open have slashed their opening hours, with some just open for one or two days a week.
There were 3,303 bank branch closures, equating to 34% of the network, between January 2015 and August 2019, the consumer group previously said.
The network has reduced in size from 9,803 branches to 6,549 over the period, with the number of closures being slightly offset by 49 branches also opening.
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: “The vulnerable, elderly and those in rural communities rely on having free access to cash, so this move from Link and the Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund is a promising step in the right direction.
“However, this is just one proposal in a range of solutions needed to tackle the growing access to cash problem, because cutting the number of free to access cash machines has an impact on footfall in town centres.
“At a time when small firms are struggling on the high street, every pound spent on charging ATMs means money not being spent on local and small firms.
“When an ATM is removed from a local area, we know it is especially difficult to get one reinstalled later on, and we hope this move can help.”
Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Millions of people who need cash are at risk of being cut off from paying for vital goods and services, so it’s clear urgent intervention is needed.
“Encouraging communities to report gaps in local cash access must lead to quick action and tangible results.
“Although voluntary industry initiatives to protect cash are encouraging we can’t rely on them to guarantee cash access in the long term.
“The Government must urgently introduce legislation that guarantees consumers can continue to access and pay with cash for as long as it is needed.”