The long-term decline in the use of cash is putting at risk the facilities that people and communities use to access cash. This trend could be accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cash use and the impact of businesses declining to accept cash. The current oversight of the cash system by government is fragmented. HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator and the Bank of England all currently play a role in oversight. We are concerned that responsibilities amongst the public bodies are currently unclear. There is a real risk that responsibility for taking urgent action falls between the cracks. It is also worrying that the public bodies appear to be unclear on what they are trying to deliver for consumers and businesses, and don’t appear to have grasped the full impact lack of access can have on communities, particularly in rural areas, or the real detriment caused to some groups and consumers. Unless the government acts quickly, there are clear dangers of hardship for some individuals and groups if we move precipitously towards a cashless society.
The continued reduction in coin use, possibly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, is likely to put further pressure on the Royal Mint’s ability to deliver a profit on their operations. In sharp contrast, the demand for bank notes is continuing to rise. The Bank of England does not appear to have a convincing reason for why the demand for notes keeps increasing. The Bank needs to be much more curious about what is driving the increase and work with HMRC and other public agencies to shed light on this.