Regulators Map Cash 'Cold-Spots' Amid COVID-19 Crisis

By Irene Madongo
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Law360, London (June 30, 2020, 5:39 PM BST) -- Most Britons have been able to get access to cash within a few miles of their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, financial regulators said on Tuesday, but warned that some communities are excluded.

The Financial Conduct Authority and the Payment Systems Regulator published a joint analysis on Tuesday that shows "cold spots," or areas where people were unable able to reach at least one cash point within a three-mile radius because of the nationwide lockdown imposed during the coronavirus outbreak.

Most of the "cold spots" were in the rural areas, according to analysis of additional government statistics.

The City regulator and the payments watchdog found that almost the entire population — 99% — maintained the access to cash within a five-mile radius that they had before the COVID-19 crisis. Fewer than 10,000 people in the country within this radius lost access, they found.

"Despite the decline in cash use, made worse by coronavirus, cash is still an essential method of payment for many," the FCA and PSR said in a joint statement. "We know that some consumers have limited access to cash even where overall coverage is good, for example, if they are vulnerable or because public transport to reach cash machines is poor."

The study grew out of efforts by regulators and industry to collate a database that shows where cash machines are available in the U.K. The watchdogs examined where people lived in the country and compared that to locations where banks, ATMs and Post Offices have closed because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Figures show that, in most local authorities, between zero and 1% of people were unable to get their hands on cash because of closures near their homes linked to the pandemic.

The data has helped the industry to work on measures to help people who have been affected, the regulators said. 

"We remain committed to helping ensure that consumers and businesses who need to access and deposit cash can continue to do so," the FCA and PSR said in a joint statement. "In the longer term, legislation announced in the 2020 Budget should enhance our ability to protect access to cash for those who need it in a way that works for them."

The regulators said they are working with the sector to prioritize the reopening of bank branches and ATMs in areas where access to cash is "urgently" needed.

--Additional reporting by Najiyya Budaly. Editing by Ed Harris.

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