Major UK banks have agreed to join forces and share services to help people and businesses to continue to be able to access cash.
Barclays, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide building society, NatWest, Santander UK, TSB and Danske Bank have agreed to the new approach, with some other firms also considering joining up.
The collaboration, achieved through the Access to Cash Action Group, signals a long-term commitment to ensuring widespread cash and banking access for communities where services are limited.
It means that, from Wednesday, if a bank involved in the initiative decides to close a branch, it will inform the ATM network Link.
Link will independently assess what the closure means for cash provision, looking at the community as a whole, including its residents and businesses. It will consider whether a new solution is needed.
If, for example, there are no bank branches remaining, Link could consider whether there is a local post office. It may, for example, suggest a refurbished Post Office branch or a bank hub.
Bank hubs involve banks working jointly to offer basic cash services on high streets, with spaces for people to speak to their own bank. Each bank may offer its own services from a hub, on different days of the week.
Communities will also be able to request a review of their community’s needs from the summer of 2022.
Cash use is still about 35% below pre-Covid-19 levels, those behind the initiative said. However, millions of people across the UK still use cash daily and many businesses need places to withdraw and deposit it.
Link has already assessed most communities where closures have taken place over the past year and new services are planned for 2022.
The Post Office is also ready to provide new and improved dedicated cash services in up to 30 branches, those behind the initiative said.
The Post Office already has an agreement with many banks that allows customers to do their everyday banking over its counters.
The new shared services will run alongside other industry initiatives to support cash, such as “cashback without purchase”, which is being rolled out to 2,000 retailers by the end of 2021, mobile branches and pop-up services, as well as services for people needing to make payments in their own homes.
The UK government has said it will legislate to protect the future of cash.
John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Access to cash has ongoing importance to the daily lives of millions of people across the UK, and protecting it is a priority for myself and this government.”