Fears for 'lifeline' ATMs as cash use in Suffolk drops dramatically

Concerns have been raised elderly residents could lose access to cash machines

Concerns have been raised that rural communities could lose cash machines - Credit: PA

Fears have been raised that elderly residents in rural communities could lose access to cash machines after figures showed declining use. 

Statistics from UK cash machine network LINK showed a 45% drop in transactions from Suffolk ATMs since January 2019. 

The most recent data for January shows there were just 548,948 withdrawals totalling £43,318,193, compared with 993,184 withdrawals worth £66,949,198 in January 2019. 

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have had an impact, with the monthly average down from around 900,000 to one million transactions pre-pandemic to around 500,000-600,000 during the crisis. 

Now two town mayors have expressed concerns cashpoints could be stripped from communities as people switch to card payments, leaving older people more used to paying by cash without access to money. 

Woodbridge Mayor Sue Bale said her town had seen banks close, including NatWest in Cumberland Street, which shut its doors in September 2017. 

And now she fears cash machines could go the same way. 

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“I think there are quite a large number of older people in the town here who would probably like to carry on using cash and so that would not be good news for them if they lost the cash machines,” she said. 

Woodbridge Mayor Sue Bale is concerned elderly residents would not be able to access cash machines 

Woodbridge Mayor Sue Bale is concerned elderly residents may not be able to access cash - Credit: JEREMY BALE

Johnnie Walker, the Mayor of Eye, said his town used to have a Barclays Bank, which moved out although the charity that occupied the premises allowed the cash machine to stay. 

Should the ATMs go, the only alternative for elderly residents to withdraw cash would be through the post office or by visiting Diss five miles away – but bus services are infrequent.

He said: “If the cash machine was to go, it would be a major lifeline to the town lost.” 

Nick Quin, head of financial inclusion at LINK, said the number of cash machines in Suffolk had reduced since January 2019 from 404 to 353.

He said: “Although cash use is falling rapidly, it remains vital for many people. Around 60,000 people in Suffolk rely on cash, and LINK is committed to ensuring they can access it free of charge for as long as is necessary.

“That is why we subsidise 41 ATMs in remote areas in Suffolk, and 3 ATMs in the most deprived areas of Suffolk. If those ATMs close, LINK will ensure a replacement is available."