On Tuesday Boris Johnson plunged England back into a third national lockdown that will last until mid February, with schools closed and everyone told to stay home. The pandemic has changed our way of life beyond recognition, including how we spend our money.
Half of people across Britain have used cash less often during the coronavirus pandemic putting it among the countries with the steepest declines globally. Some experts are now warning that our entire cash system, costing £5 billion a year to run, could be under threat.
But not everyone is ready for a world of digital payments. Around 2.3 million people aged 70 or over don’t have an internet connection at home, and access to cash is increasingly becoming an issue for the poorest and more vulnerable in society. When you look at the areas that have continued to withdraw from cash points the most during the pandemic, a clear pattern emerges.
In the wealthiest areas, we've seen an enormous drop, 60 - 70 percent in withdrawals, year on year, in the most deprived areas, that’s something more like 20 - 30 percent.
In fact, studies suggest people that earn less than ten thousand pounds a year are fourteen times more likely to be dependent on cash than people that earn over thirty thousand pounds a year.
Walton in Liverpool is the most deprived constituency in England, and has also seen the smallest drop in cash withdrawals in the country. But accessing cash is becoming more difficult.
We've got massive issues, because they've removed the high street banks, where people have been able to go into, and they've introduced cash machines that charge at the same time.
When Barclays announced plans to close their Walton branch in 2017, Maureen led a campaign to try to keep it open. Despite a petition of over sixteen hundred signatures, and support from the local MP, the bank closure went ahead as planned. Over a third of the bank branches in Walton have closed in the last six years.
Barclays told Tonight it was a difficult decision to close the branch but they stand by it. They say with more customers choosing to bank in different ways, they are carefully reducing the number of under-used branches, but continue to invest in the services they provide their customers.
For some, the shift away from cash is more welcome. Starling Bank now have 2 million customers, 800,000 of which signed up in the last year, as they became the first of the new breed of digital banks to become profitable.
The pandemic has accelerated the move to cashless by about ten years, We can't hold back the tide. It's going to happen. I see a world in 10 years time where everything is digital, everything is cashless.
ITV Tonight's 'Has Cash Been Cancelled?’ is on ITV on Thursday 7th January at 7:30pm.
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