Consumer watchdog, Which? has launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ProtectCash so the public can show the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, that there is a need to protect the UK’s free access to cash in his first Budget.

This follows a warning from LINK, the UK’s main cashpoint network and Post Office’s strategic partner in defending free access to cash nationwide. LINK has said that, through the combination of bank branch closures, ATM removals and the shift to cashless payments, our free cash system may collapse within two years without Government intervention.

Almost every bank customer – whether personal or small business – can access their usual high street bank account to get cash out at any Post Office branch, make a cash or cheque deposit or check their balance. The services our network of 11,500 branches offers are vital, especially for rural and remote communities, and they provide an opportunity for face-to-face interaction, which is important to many.

Commenting on the loss of free-to-use ATMs, Post Office’s Banking Services Director, Martin Kearsley, said: “Like many, we support the need to protect the cash network in the UK, and await Government announcements on appropriate measures to ensure that protection in next month’s Budget.

“Ensuring a significant free-at-the-point-of-use cash withdrawal and deposit network is vitally important to supporting customers, local communities and facilitating economic growth. Post Offices across the country are an important part of the solution to this problem providing easy access to cash at our 11,500 branches, including in rural and urban areas without free-to-use ATMs.”

Around 9,500 free-to-use cash machines have disappeared over the past two years, which represents 17% of the UK’s ATM network, while over 1,200 bank branches have closed in the same period. The number of debit card payments overtook cash in 2017, according to trade body UK Finance and experts predict that within 10 years, cash could account for less than 10% of all transactions made.

According to Which? 8 million people would struggle without cash while 1.9 million still use it as their main payment method for day-today spending. Which? has also found that a quarter of all cash machines now charge fees.