Could churches double as bank branches in troubled regions?

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Hay-on-Wye, which hosts a major book festival, is one area that will hold a trial


A financial center in a Methodist church and drop-off points for small businesses are among the ideas being tested in struggling communities.

Local people will also have access to cash back rewards at convenience stores, even if they do not shop.

Eight trials were confirmed as part of a project to address cash access issues.

The closure of bank branches and ATMs resulted in losses for local businesses and worried consumers.

The plan for the trials was drawn up in light of a major report warning the country to “sleepwalk” to become a cashless society.

He found that eight million people in the UK depend on banknotes and coins, ranging from those without a bank account to those uncomfortable with digital payments.

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‘No shopping, no problem’

The eight test areas, including remote communities such as the village of Botton in North Yorkshire, will test a range of ideas, including pop-up post offices in small shops and banking centers in retail spaces. retail.

Fifteen stores in four zones will test the no-buy refund plan. Retailers will be remunerated for the provision of the service by the payment service company PayPoint.

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“It’s critical that we find ways to protect the viability of species, both for consumers and for communities,” said Natalie Ceeney, who wrote the Access to Cash report and oversees the projects.

“These pilots are designed to find sustainable ways to keep liquidity viable locally, which, if successful, can then be rolled out more widely. ”

Reports on the progress or otherwise of the projects will be published next summer.

Ms Ceeney said access to ATMs was not the only solution, especially for businesses that needed to deposit their revenue quickly. She said the business shouldn’t have to shut down during the day to get to the nearest bank, miles from another city.

Make money harder to spend

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Cash is key to avoiding overspending, says Brandon Wilson, 20-year-old civil engineering apprentice


It wasn’t that long ago that two banks had branches in Ampthill. Then there was one. Now there is none. Currently, there is only one vending machine left to serve a population of over 8,000 people.

Resident Brandon Wilson, 20, told the BBC in June that using the cash has helped him stick more strictly to his spending plans to ensure he doesn’t spend beyond its means.

“Usually I try to budget my daily routine and having physical money there means it’s harder to spend than just placing a card on a machine,” he said.

  • The city where 8,000 people share an ATM

Other project areas chosen for testing included remote Lulworth camp, a military barracks in Dorset, miles from the nearest cash machine.

Small towns with thousands of inhabitants that have seen bank branches or ATMs disappear are also included, such as Ampthill, with Rochford, in Essex, Denny near Falkirk and Cambuslang in Lanarkshire.

Burslem, Staffordshire, is also on the list, as is Hay-on-Wye, which has a large number of bookstores and other small businesses, but no bank branch to deposit notes and coins.

Millisle in Northern Ireland was recently added as the eighth zone to participate in the pilot projects.

Eric Leenders of UK Finance, which represents UK banks, said the industry is committed to accessing liquidity by remaining “free and widely available to those who need it”.

Martin McTague, Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘While contactless is arguably the safest way to pay in today’s climate, we need to make sure that the coronavirus doesn’t make us doze off in a society. cashless for which we are not ready. again. “

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