Monday, 10 August 2009


The New Labour Government (which is doing it's best to keep on the good side of the bankers) needs to regulate ATM charges which hit some of the most vulnerable people in our communities by charging people to withdraw their own money. The recent rapid growth in ATM's which charge users for their services - hits all of us, but, particularly hits those on low incomes - it's yet another tidy little earner for the banks at our expense.

Some of the amounts being charged to use these ATMs are ridiculous, to make matters worse there have been some rapid increases in charges recently. Some are now charging as much as £2.50 for every withdrawal - for anybody withdrawing £10 that’s an extra 25%! This is a cost that many users can ill afford. To make matters worse it would appear that more deprived wards with no free cash withdrawal options are being targeted by these companies, this is disgraceful and unscrupulous behaviour by these ATM companies.

From a standard £1.99 charge, about 60p will go to the owner of the site where the cashpoint is, roughly 60p is taken by the firm that owns the machine and another 40p goes to Link. What little is left over - about 39p in this case - pays towards installing and maintaining the cashpoint. An industry insider said: "The breakdown is roughly the same for all companies, but the charge differs depending on where the cash machine is.”

Very often people living in these communities that have seen the loss of local branches of banks and do not have the luxury of being able to travel to withdraw cash. Their options have been further limited by the New Labour Post Office closure programme. Even in those communities that are lucky enough to still have a post office, the days of withdrawing benefits and pensions directly and over the counter are long gone.

Since 1995 banks have closed 22% of their branch network, 15% of post office branches have been closed, 5% of building society branches have been closed. Machines which charge now account for over 40% of the 53,000 machines in the LINK network. In 2001 only 7,000 cash machines charged to get money out but by last year that figure had rocketed to 25,000 (Jul 2009).

Last year, the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) group, sold more than 800 of its cash machines to an independent operator. This company is now free to introduce fees on the machines. HBOS won't directly benefit if charges are introduced - and it will be able to continue saying its own machines are free - but it made £75m from the sale of the network. Abbey has also sold part of its cash-machine network. NatWest has even bought one of the fee-charging ATM operators, whose profits will now feed into the banking giant's bottom line.

It is high time that action is taken to protect our communities, it is wrong that unscrupulous companies should profit most from those who can afford it least. The New Labour Westminster government needs to take immediate action to regulate the proliferation and charges of these ATMs. In Wales, the social justice Minister needs to step in and work with local public service providers to provide free alternatives and we must see if there is anything else that can be done to protect our communities from this unfair practice and protect our communities from unfair charges.

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