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18 December 2008

1.5 million people to benefit from free cash machines in low-income areas

Around 1.5 million people will benefit from the placement of over 600 non-charging cash machines in low income areas, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Ian Pearson MP, and Treasury Select Committee Chairman, John McFall MP announced today.

Reporting on substantial progress made by the  ATM Working Group , they confirmed that:

Ian Pearson said:

"I’m delighted at the progress we have made on this initiative, which means over one million people in low income areas are not being charged to withdraw their own money from a cash machine. It is a real step forward in our campaign for free access to cash for people up and down the country.

“There is still more work to do though, and I call on communities, neighbourhood groups and local MP’s to keep sending nominations to LINK for potential sites for free cash machines.”

John McFall said:

“Hard pressed families in low income areas need access to their own money at short notice without having to meet bank charges for every transaction they make, especially at Christmas time when they need every penny they have.

“People in low income areas where non charging machines have been installed are estimated to be saving in the region of £7 per person per week because there is free access to an ATM in their area.

“In today’s society, financial exclusion means social exclusion. It is important for everyone to have access to basic financial services, and this includes cash machines.

“I am delighted that such good progress has been made over such a short period of time and that additional free cash machines continue to be installed across the UK.

“We are currently on track to exceed our original target of 600 new free ATMs, and all the participating banks deserve to be congratulated for this.

“During this period of economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we do not let up on our efforts to widen access to financial services or people in low-income areas.”

Ian Pearson and John McFall also praised the coordinating work of LINK, the operator of the UK cash machine network, for its successful efforts in placing the cash machines in low-income areas, and enforcing the rules on cash machine charging and signage. This ensures that charging machines meet good practice standards for "at a glance" signage, enabling customers to quickly and easily distinguish between charging and non-charging machines.

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Notes for Editors

  1. Following concerns raised by the Treasury Select Committee in March 2005 about the impact of ATM charges on lower-income groups and the transparency of charges at ATMs, the Parliamentary Working Group on ATMs was established at the instigation of HM Treasury under the chairmanship of John McFall. The Group’s report 'Cash machines - meeting consumer needs' is available on the Treasury website
  2. All major cash machine operators in the UK - including banks, building societies and independent cash machine operators are part of the LINK ATM network. About 38,000 free ATMs currently account for 96% of cash withdrawals, with the remaining 4% of withdrawals made at some 27,000 charging machines across the UK. Banks and building societies currently pay an 'interchange fee' when machines operated by other companies are used to access their accounts. As part of this initiative to locate free ATMs in low income areas a financial inclusion premium, a 33-50% premium per transaction, is paid to cash machine operators establishing ATMs at sites with lower customer-use. 
  3. The then Economic Secretary, Ed Balls and John McFall wrote to Members of Parliament and local authorities in December 2006 with a further update in March 2007 asking where to places free ATMs, with a significant number of suggestions received. 
  4. Five hundred and twenty-seven non-charging bank machines are now in operation, and LINK is continuing to work to realise identified potential ATM sites, especially those within outstanding target areas. Full details on progress made to date, can be found on the LINK website; including a breakdown for every constituency: http://www.link.co.uk/ 
  5. As part of the Government's commitment to ensuring that everyone has access to financial services, in December 2007 'The Action Plan for Financial Inclusion for 2008-11', launched by the former Economic Secretary, Kitty Ussher, announced Government funding of £135 million for initiatives to promote financial inclusion, including increasing the availability and awareness of home contents insurance for low-income people and free face-to-face money advice. 
  6. As an incentive for operators to set up and maintain cash machines free-of-charge, a 'financial inclusion premium' compensates cash machine operators for the expected lower cash machine-use in these areas. This is funded by the cardholders' banks and building societies. Twenty-six of the new cash machines proved popular enough that they now no longer require funding from the scheme.
    Region Total Live
     ATMs
    Under
    Contract ATMs
    Total ATMs
    East Midlands 44 5 49
    Eastern 14 3 17
    London 21 3 24
    North East 56 15 71
    North West 82 20 102
    Northern Ireland 12 3 15
    Scotland 72 20 92
    South East 18 8 26
    South West 18 6 24
    Wales 67 25 92
    West Midlands 53 10 63
    Yorkshire & the Humber 70 18 88
    Total 527 136 663

Non-media enquiries should be addressed to the Treasury Correspondence and Enquiry Unit on 020 7270 4558 or by e-mail to public.enquiries@hm-treasury.gov.uk

This Press Release and other Treasury publications are available on the HM Treasury website hm-treasury.gov.uk For the latest information from HM Treasury you can subscribe to our RSS feeds or email service.

Media enquiries should be addressed to: the Treasury Press Office on 020 7270 5238; the Media Office, House of Commons on 020 7219 2003; or Edwin Latter, LINK ATM Director, LINK ATM Scheme on 014 2335 6389.

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