The Chancellor has been called on to protect cash as a critical payment method for both consumers and businesses.

In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, a coalition of businesses, charities and consumer groups have urged the Treasury to ensure that cash remains part of the payments mix of the future, “given its continued importance to the financially vulnerable, digitally excluded and small businesses”.

While praising the government’s recent release of its cash access policy statement as a positive first step, the letter suggested that a more comprehensive effort is required to ensure the robust funding and safeguarding of the UK’s cash network.

It highlighted the fact that since 2018, 14,400 free-to-use ATMs have vanished from communities throughout the UK, and an additional 37,000 now face the imminent risk of closure or conversion to pay-to-use machines. The letter warned that this trajectory not only “jeopardizes the role of cash in future payment systems but also endangers the financial inclusion of vulnerable populations”.

“While the Prime Minister’s recent endorsement of the free cash network is encouraging, the devil will be in the detail in terms of how the Government and FCA implement its plans for cash.”

The signatories called for a concerted focus on maintaining maximum payment choice and future-proofing of cash as a payment method, through ensuring the ATM network receives the funding it needs.

One of the signatories, NoteMachine chief executive Steve Makaritis said: “As the UKs cash and banking infrastructure faces significant pressures and consumers deal with the rising cost of living, now is the time for the Government and the FCA to use this Review and recent legislation to help maximise payment choice for businesses and individuals, maintaining the diverse payments landscape we need well into the future.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman added: “As well as cash still being used for more than half of convenience store transactions, customers use ATMs located at convenience stores to access cash for their daily needs. The Treasury has committed to support a full range of payment options, including cash, for the long-term, and we need to see improved ATM interchange fees to make sure this is delivered.”

Signatories of the letter are:

Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive James Lowman

Federation of Small Businesses Chief of External Affairs Craig Beaumont

Rural Services Network Chief Executive Kerry Booth

Petrol Retailers Association Executive Director Gordon Balmer

NoteMachine Chief Executive Steve Makaritis

Positive Money Head of Policy & Advocacy Simon Youel