Pressure mounts on Rishi Sunak as cash-dependent Britons risk being 'unbanked' by digitised economy

An image of somebody taking cash out of an ATM

An image of somebody taking cash out of an ATM

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 12/07/2023

- 14:57

Updated: 13/07/2023

- 08:44

The Prime Minister previously rejected calls to ensure public-serving retailers must accept cash payments


The chief executive of a major cashpoint operator has urged the Government to step up to protect cash-dependent Britons amid growing concerns about the UK sleepwalking towards a digitised economy.

Steve Makaritis, who became chief executive of Note Machine last October, voiced concern about the Financial Services and Markets Bill due to its failure to defend existing free-to-use ATMs.

The legislation, which received royal assent in June, looks to create a more competitive financial services sector post-Brexit.

However, critics have pointed out how it does little to protect the millions of Britons who depend on cash for regular payments.

Rishi SunakRishi SunakPA

Makaritis hopes to put pressure on the Government to ensure free-to-use ATMs remain easily accessible for Britons.

NoteMachine is particularly keen to get assurances from the Treasury about the need to accept cash payments, what is meant by free access to cash and how the financial services markets fund ATMs to provide consumers with greater convenience.

The cashpoint operator is being forced to move towards pay-to-use cash machines amid spiralling costs following a funding cut by LINK in 2018.

The number of free-to-use ATMs across the United Kingdom has fallen by 14,400 as a result of LINK’s refusal to increase the interchange in line with soaring interest rates.

NoteMachine, which provides 5,500 free cash machines out of its 9,100 estate, has warned a further 37,000 ATMs could be at risk of closure or conversion to pay-to-use.

Moving to pay-to-use machines results in a significant drop in transactions.

NoteMachine chief executive Steve Makaritis

NoteMachine chief executive Steve Makaritis


“We’ve noticed a 50 per cent drop in transactions,” Makaritis said.

Commenting on the Don’t Kill Cash campaign, he added: “By GB News taking a stance and saying we need to protect cash, it's another part of the same fight around cash, whether the ATM networks, branch networks or acceptance by merchants.

“Everything we do continues to mount pressure on the Government and the regulator to do something.”

He continued: “I am very concerned that financial services will go completely digital and it’ll alienate a very large section of this country that will become the unbanked.

“We can’t do that because we are not that kind of country, I am hoping.”

A completely digitised economy could prove particularly damaging for the elderly, those living in provincial parts of the country and small businesses.

An image of a man taking cash out of an ATM

An image of a man taking cash out of an ATM


NoteMachine has even devised its Axis plan which sees the installation of a shipping container sized pod.

Explaining the scheme, its CEO said: “You could put this into a shopping mall, potentially outdoors, maybe on the back of a lorry to move it around so that ultimately people still have access to banking facilities but it's not as costly as a Victorian building that you’ve got to keep 20 people in.”

The use of cash has increased following the pandemic as Britons become more confident about its safety and continue to use physical money as a budgeting tool amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The volume of cash withdrawals increased by 19 per cent last January compared to January 2021.

However, the Government’s refusal to commit to making private businesses accept cash payments and the Bank of England’s push for a crypto-currency have ultimately raised eyebrows about the future of cash.

One-in-four traditional bank branches are predicted to close over the next three years, despite a third of Britons preferring in-branch and face-to-face banking services.

Cash machines at HSBCGB News is calling on the Government to introduce legislation committing to protect the status of cash as legal tender PA

The total number of branches which look set to close by the end of 2023 is 206, consumer choice website Which? has warned.

Makaritis warned: “There is an inevitability that at some point the number of people using cash will continue to decline but it will reach a natural position.

“I think that it will get to that point because we are forcing the issue by not having bank branches, by not having ATMs, by not having retailers and merchants accepting cash.”

GB News has approached the Treasury for comment.

The Don’t Kill Cash campaign has been garnering support since it launched on Monday.

Almost 190,000 people have signed our petition which looks to push the Government to introduce legislation protecting cash as legal tender until at least 2050.

A number of high-profile figures have also backed the campaign, including RMT general secretary Mick Lynch and Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins.

You can help GB News in ensuring the Government and businesses Don't Kill Cash by signing our petition.

Have you found yourself impacted by the cashless society? Email in and let us know your stories

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