‘Big Win’: UK Government Will Force Banks to Keep Cash Available to Public

The government will impose unlimited fines on banks that fail to protect access to cash, the Treasury said, in a major move against the march towards a cashless society that campaigner Nigel Farage called a “major victory”.

The announcement comes after months of campaigning against the encroaching cashless society and debanking spearheaded by Brexit’s Nigel Farage, and was announced just hours after Farage and co-signatories filed a petition to the government demanding that cash be protected for decades to come.

Under the new rules are provisions for both people who want cash locally and for businesses to easily deposit the money they withdraw from the public into their bank, both aimed at keeping cash as convenient as possible.

Mr Farage called the news: “Another big win against the banks.”

Speaking to GB News, the British broadcaster that has played a major role in the campaign to preserve cash in recent weeks, Treasury Economic Secretary Andrew Griffith, MP, said said of the announcement: “cash is important, it’s here to stay for the long haul. Many elderly, vulnerable people, especially rural communities, depend on that access to cash.

“And if we want our stores to continue to accept cash over the counter, then of course those businesses need to be able to deposit it somewhere. So the rules we are announcing also cover the ability of companies to deposit cash at a location that suits them.”

“In the autumn, we will discuss new rules requiring banks to maintain reasonable access to cash… We look forward to the government outlining which businesses our new cash access rules will apply to address this essential support work.”

But for money campaigners, the new rules may not go far enough. Indeed, what was announced last night does not appear to be materially different from what the government discussed earlier this year, meaning that the Conservatives may be trying to piggyback on the popularity of Farage’s campaign, rather than really reacting to the shocking revelations and the introducing entirely new changes.

Shaun Bailey, the former Conservative candidate for mayor of London, underlined one of the main weaknesses of the move, which is that it does nothing to address the significant growth of businesses that simply refuse to accept cash, instead pushing for digital payment. Under the current system, they are legally entitled to do so. Bailey said: “There is no point in having cash if businesses are not legally required to accept it. So I think they should accept cash as legal tender until 2050 and beyond. That would make the crucial difference.”

There is no indication in the latest announcement that this position has changed. As things stand, there are plenty of restrictions on the ways individuals can spend their money, and how companies can refuse to accept your preferred payment method if they don’t want the inconvenience of handling your money. That of the Bank of England own demise on the definition of legal tender explains:

A store owner can choose which payment to accept. If you want to pay for a pack of gum with a £50 note, it’s perfectly legal to turn you down. Likewise for all other banknotes it is a matter of discretion. If your local corner store decided to only accept payment in Pokémon cards, that would be within their rights too. But they would probably lose customers.

…There are also some restrictions when using small coins. For example, 1p and 2p coins only count as legal tender for any amount up to 20p.

Many common and secure payment methods such as checks, debit cards and contactless are not legal tender.

Farage’s petition aims to challenge this idea, albeit with what might be called a folk understanding of what constitutes “legal tender,” rather than an economist’s narrow and technical definition. The petition delivered to Downing Street on Thursdayy, and which now has more than 300,000 signatures, reads:

I call on the government to introduce legislation to protect the status of cash as legal tender and widely accepted means of payment in the UK until at least 2050.

Speaking about the petition on Thursday evening after his visit to Downing Street, Mr Farage said of the importance of this change: “we want legal tender to remain legal tender and we fear that we are being driven towards a cashless society.”

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