The UK Public Will ALWAYS Need Access To Cash!

Posted on: 19/12/2018


This morning, the UK Access To Cash Review released Part 1 of their report.

The document issued has the title “Is Britain Ready To Go Cashless?”

Since the document reveals that 97% of UK residents continue to carry cash and 67% of them still like to pay with cash for small purchases, the answer to the question posed is clearly a resounding NO.

The report goes on to highlight that for 25 Million people in Britain – around half of the adult population – going cashless would present “real challenges.”

The report is 60 pages long, but to distill the important aspects is not difficult. The percentages speak for themselves. The UK public remain heavily committed to cash use and this must surely be respected by all payment market participants, even if cash use is not a perfect fit with their own commercial interests.

The report highlights Sweden, which has become the poster-child of those who, for whatever reason, would welcome the creation of the first cashless country.

In Sweden, the Central Bank – the Riksbank – has in the past allowed commercial interests too much leeway in relation to managing Sweden’s currency. The Riksbank has now seemingly realized this was a mistake and is rightly trying to ensure all Swedish citizens have access to cash for the foreseeable future.

Many would argue that other countries provide more important lessons in relation to cash use. For example, in Italy and Switzerland, where the Central Banks have not allowed any commercial manipulation of cash supply. In both these markets, where the public benefit from unfettered Payment Choice, cash is used for over 70% of retail purchases.

In any event, I welcome the views expressed in the report that careful planning is required to ensure a cashless UK does not appear by “accident”. Natalie Ceeney, the Chair of the Access to Cash Review, sums up the situation nicely when she notes “If Britain sleepwalks into a cashless society, millions will be left behind.” Tens of millions would, of course, be a more accurate estimate.

I look forward the second part of the Access to Cash Review report, due to be issued in Q1 2019. In that part, we need to see recommendations which include the legal protection to be put in place to ensure cash is accepted for ALL in-person payments. We also need to see recommendations covering access to cash deposit, recycling and withdrawal facilities in EVERY community around the UK. In most cases, of course, such facilities are likely to be in the shape of the next generation of Smart ATMs.  

The working assumption must be that the UK public will ALWAYS need access to cash. For the sake of the Public Interest, I sincerely hope the Access To Cash Review base their recommendations on that assumption.

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