Does Sunderland have enough free-to-use cash points?
Fears have been aired over the future of free-to-use cash machines across Sunderland after new figures revealed at least 20 have vanished from the city’s streets in less than 18 months.
Regional statistics indicate that 245 such dispensers – more than one in ten of the January 2018 total – either closed in the North East by May of this year or started charging fees of up to £2.
While full figures for Sunderland have still to be revealed, at least 20 of the 135 free-to-use machines in what is termed the “Sunderland Central” area – around 15 per cent of the overall number – have disappeared over the same period.
Reductions to the fees card issuers pay to ATM operators and increasing numbers of bank branch closures are among the reasons blamed for the trend.
The new figures, compiled by consumer watchdog Which, also indicate they are disappearing quicker in poor areas than affluent ones and have sparked fears that "cash deserts" could be created.
Concerned city Liberal Democrats say recent bank closures here mean it is now more difficult for people to access cash in their own community.
They insist free-to-use machines are vital for the future of shopping areas outside the city centre such as Pallion, Millfield and Fulwell and want Government action to protect them.
Liberal Democrat campaigner for Fulwell and Seaburn Malcolm Bond said: “In our area, the closures of NatWest and Barlcays on Sea Road and Barclays at Southwick have meant that people are struggling to get access to their own money in their own community.
“A lack of easy access to cash can also have a huge impact on the amount that is spent in surrounding small businesses.
“As more and more bank branches close, people are starting to worry that whole communities may be left without a free-to-use cash machine at all and that is a real concern, especially for older or vulnerable people who don’t want to use online banking apps or contactless payments and who struggle to get into the city centre to get access to cash.
“Having to pay up to £2 just to withdraw your own money is such a massive rip-off.”
A Treasury spokesman said greater access was now available to cash via Post Office branches.
He added: "Technology has transformed banking for millions of people, but we know that many still rely on cash.
"That's why we're co-ordinating work across Government, regulators and industry so we can protect access for everyone who needs it.
"Part of this work includes investing over £2 billion in the Post Office since 2010, giving people across the country local access to everyday banking services at one of its 11,500 branches."