Financial Exclusion and its impact on Oldham and Royton

Earlier this week, I participated in a debate surrounding financial responsibility and exclusion stemming from the closing of bank branches and charges being placed on ATMs in our regions.

Access to appropriate and fair financial services is a key requisite for participation in today’s society due to its centrality to everyday life. Access to a bank account, savings and affordable credit are essential, however a significant minority lack access to these products and even those who do are now being cut off from accessing them.

Its staggering to think that since the mid 1980’s we’ve lost over 10,500 banks and building societies and 9,700 post offices, with the real impact on the High Street we have seen across the constituency.

And although over that period the number of cash machines has increased year on year, for the first-time last year we saw the first reduction in cash machines 20 years.

Cash machines around the UK are now closing at a rate of 300 a month, and there are over 3,000 communities in Britain that no longer have a single bank branch, especially in smaller towns

Although habits are changing it is still the case that 1.3m do not have a bank account at all, and for a precinct like Royton the market is heavily dependent on access to cash for its customers.

This is why we must act on financial exclusion and the charges being put on ATM’s. Our local businesses are at serious risk if we cannot access the cash to put into our local economies. Losing branches, cash machines and having charges put onto ATM’s is reducing customer choice, forcing local people to shop at chains where they will always accept card.

This will kill local independent shops and markets not just across Oldham, but country wide. This cannot be allowed to continue.

There was an agreement in place between Yorkshire Bank in Royton and a local convenience store to move the ATM into the store, with access to cash to be free. However, just a year into this agreement we have seen a charge implemented and enforced for anyone using the machine.

These agreements are banks taking advantage of a local community that has no other choice. We need to change the law now, to protect our communities and put the emphasis back on the communities who rely on free to use ATM’s and bank branches and who keep the local economy going.

A formal review of ATM charges should take place, with a view to reforming them or abolishing charges altogether. Alongside establishing a minimum standard of banking in communities for financial accessibility and fairness, every community must have access to a branch with free ATM’s.

The move toward a cashless society is a danger to communities such as Oldham where so many of us do not rely on using cards. So, Local Councillors and I are working together, particularly in Royton, to tackle these unjust charges on our own money.

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