LINK Ardington 016 (003)

Source: PayPoint

PayPoint has installed the first cash machine funded by the new initiative in an Oxfordshire retailer

Link has allocated £4m to fund free-to-use cash machines in rural and deprived areas and is calling on retailers to apply for one.

The Retail Centre Access to Cash Commitment aims to tackle concerns raised by an independent Access to Cash review published in March, which urged the government, regulators and banks to act now to guarantee access to cash in the community.

Under the initiative, Link guarantees to offer any of the UK’s 6,500 retail centres a free-to-use ‘protected’ ATM if the distance is greater than one kilometre to an existing free-to-use cash machine or Post Office counter.

The £4m funding has been made available from Link’s bank and building society members.

Link would prefer to place the cash machines within a shop, and is asking for retailers to get in touch and see if they meet the criteria to apply.

The UK’s ATM network operator Link has previously come under fire for cutting the fee banks are required to pay cash machine operators each time a customer withdraws cash from an ATM. The cut has been blamed for the rise of fee-paying cash machines, and in some cases the removal of ATMs deemed no longer commercially viable by the operator.

James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores, previously called on Link to “set interchange fees at a level which considers retailer and operator costs and encourages free-to-use machines to be kept in place”.

However, Link has so far refused to revert the fee banks pay to the ATM operators.

The new fund is part of Link’s Financial Inclusion Programme, aiming to help ensure deprived and rural areas maintain free access to cash.

The first cash machine to be funded by the new scheme has now been installed by PayPoint, in Ardington, Oxfordshire in August.

The ATM reopened at the Grocer Chef tearoom and general store on Ardington High Street, after the previous one was removed by a different operator.

Free-to-use cash machines will be installed following a competitive procurement process in Battle, East Sussex; Bungay, Suffolk; Hill Top Nuneaton; Tywyn in Wales, and Durness in Scotland in the coming months, with a further three areas highlighted as in need of free access.

“Our village has seen a decline in vital services over the years, such as cash points and our bus service, so installing this machine will enhance access to cash for many in the community,” said Grocer Chef owner Keith Grieg. “In a small town, a cash point can make a real difference, particularly to those who are not able to travel into town.”

Link chief commercial officer Adrian Roberts said: “Link is determined to defend free access to cash across the UK in the face of very rapidly declining cash use. These actions will protect consumers whilst much needed industry reforms to move to a more sustainable utility infrastructure take place.”