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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: New PM must keep access to cash on high street

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: New PM must be bold – and quick – not only on energy crisis but also safeguarding access to cash on the high street

An interesting week lies ahead, that’s for sure. Tomorrow, barring a surprise, Liz Truss will be confirmed as Prime Minister. I wish her well in her quest to help the country stave off recession with a bold agenda built around tax cuts. It’s going to be a tough ask. 

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will also have a clearer idea as to how she intends to tackle the energy bills crisis. 

Action is the order of the day – procrastination will not do. 

Closing down: The Cash Action Group is about to reveal its latest plans to safeguard access to cash on the high street

Far too many households – many Tory-voting – are currently staring into a financial abyss for Truss to sit on her hands while our direct debit payments go through the roof. An extension of the energy bills discount scheme, due to kick in next month, must be a priority – as should help targeted at this country’s marvellous army of small businesses. 

Many face oblivion unless they are given protection from soaring energy bills (no price cap applies to them). 

Twenty-four hours after Truss’s anointment, we should hear from the Cash Action Group on its latest plans to safeguard access to cash on the high street. It is expected that chair Natalie Ceeney will confirm 13 new banking hubs, earmarked for towns where there are no longer any bank branches. 

These will join the two already up and running – and the ten announced, but yet to open for business (an issue we highlighted seven days ago). 

As we also alluded to last week, Ceeney will confirm that the banks have agreed to a relaxation in the rules governing when a banking hub can be recommended. This should mean more new hubs announced in the months ahead. 

One of the locations for the 13 new shared bank branches – run by the Post Office with support from the big banks – will be Forres on the Moray Firth. In July, Toby Walne visited Forres on the day it lost its last branch. It was clear to him that the town merited a bank – and it will now have one. 

Although we did our bit to highlight the crassness of the banks deserting Forres, it is Conservative Moray MP Douglas Ross who deserves the plaudits. He moved heaven and earth to get a hub in the town and his wish will now be granted. 

Ceeney will also announce on Tuesday the trialling of cash deposit services for small businesses in community centres and libraries. As a result of bank closures, many small retailers now travel far and wide to bank cash takings. These new deposit services will put an end to this and maybe persuade some retailers to keep cash as a payment option. 

On Friday, Ceeney told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Last week, you highlighted that the ten hubs we’ve announced aren’t open yet. I welcome your scrutiny and our plan is to make sure these open as soon as possible. But we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. This time last year, if the last bank branch in town closed, there was no solution and no organisation to deal with it. Cash Action Group is up and running with a solution [banking hub] which works. We are heading in the right direction.’ 

I do hope so.

NS&I boss leaving organisation 

So, it is goodbye to NS&I chief executive Ian Ackerley who will leave the Government-backed savings organisation next March after six years at the helm. 

Although Ackerley has seen a 42 per cent increase in the organisation’s deposits during his reign, he will be remembered by the MoS for presiding over a catastrophic customer service meltdown in 2020. 

How he survived such a fiasco remains a modern-day financial mystery. Tatty-bye. 

THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST SAVINGS DEALS



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