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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: It’s now or never to save cash!

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: With more bank branches shutting up shop… it’s now or never to save cash!

It is now one minute to midnight on the cash doomsday clock.

Money Mail has warned for years that Britain is tumbling towards a cashless society which risks alienating millions of the most vulnerable.

Ministers have repeatedly assured us they will not allow this to happen. And in his Budget two years ago, Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised to introduce strict new rules to protect access to cash.

Vanishing cash: Research from Which? has revealed that almost half of Britain’s bank branches have disappeared since 2015. And one in four free ATMs have vanished since 2018

But despite their dozens (and dozens) of meetings with banks, payment providers and regulators, we are still waiting. In the meantime, more bank branches are closing their doors every day.

Just yesterday, Which? revealed that almost half of our bank branches have disappeared since 2015. And one in four free ATMs has vanished since 2018.

More than 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly now face having to board a plane or ferry to Cornwall to access the bank, after their last branch shut up shop on Monday. 

Meanwhile, Santander customers were told at the end of last week that almost all of their branches will close 90 minutes earlier from July. On Saturdays, they will shut at 12.30pm instead of 4pm.

And the Spanish banking giant, which saw profits in the UK soar by 266 pc last year, seemed to think it deserved praise for not announcing more closures.

But let’s not forget it axed around a fifth of its network — 111 branches — only last summer.

Even banks that are still running normal opening hours don’t actually seem to want to serve their customers. Increasing numbers are canning counters in favour of automated machines. 

Others have introduced a triaging system whereby staff clutching iPads all but body-block customers who try to join the queue to speak to someone.

Woe betide anyone attempting to withdraw cash or deposit a cheque — they’ll be swiftly marched off to a self-service machine instead.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many elderly and vulnerable customers feel utterly abandoned? Banking bosses in their Central London ivory towers must urgently wake up to the fact that not every one wants — or is able — to use the internet.

As consumer and small business champions are all but screaming from the rooftops, it really is now or never to halt the cash crisis.

If you have been affected by bank branch and cash machine closures, write to us at moneymail or Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.

Selling mistrust

The plot thickens. Last week we warned about the rise of unregulated firms selling probate plans. But it seems the Wild West of legal services knows no bounds.

As we report families are also being sold trusts that claim to shield their wealth from care fees and inheritance tax.

How can it be possible that companies are allowed to flog such complex and costly financial products with no oversight?

The worst part is that customers probably won’t realise they have been sold something totally unsuitable until years later. And by then, they may be too frail to deal with the fallout.

In fact, often it’s the very loved ones they were trying to protect who are left to pick up the pieces.

Something must be done — and soon.

Bill hike shame

Energy giants were once again under fire last week, this time for hitting customers with unjustified bill hikes.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to watchdog Ofgem following ‘troubling reports’ of firms increasing direct debit amounts by more than was necessary.

There are also concerns some companies have been directing households to tariffs that are not in their best interests.

The regulator said it had been alerted to bad practices — so when will it intervene?