UK financial watchdog visits Blackpool with a warning over dwindling cash

A top man from the country's financial watchdog visited Blackpool to see the issues people in the town face when it comes to money.

And Charles Randell, chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, warned that the shift to a cashless society was accelerating post-Covid and as such, people with no access to digital banking and those that rely on cash and local bank branches, must get more support.

Mr Randell met council leaders, representatives from the area's credit union and the Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss financial strains in the area as well as getting a tour of the resort and a meeting with teenagers from Blackpool Sixth Form College.

He said that the recent pandemic had speeded the number of bank branch closures across the country and since restrictions ended, the trend of fewer people using banks and cash machines had not reversed.

Charles Randell on his visit to Blackpool

He said: "There's very positive story about Blackpool and the way that the town is being regenerated, but there's also a lot of deprivation and poor housing stock and issues about unemployment too.

"The top four issues on these regular visits are access to affordable personal credit, access to debt advice, access to bank branches and worries that cash is going to disappear.

"Blackpool has the same consumer concerns as everywhere out in the country, the thins that singles it out is the issue of financial education and access to affordable credit for people who are struggling.

He said the local credit union Clevr Money was a great help but more people need to know about it and use it before they got into debt.

He said too many young consumers had not even heard of credit unions, which was a shame because they could use them as a place to have a rainy day fund to pay for such things as broken washing machines, before they were tempted to go to high interest rate lenders. He said young people needed more financial education.

"With some younger people, what you might call the gamified generation, there is a detachment from the problems of money in the real world. there's a lot of glamour around footballers and social media influencer who appear to have a lot of money and perhaps not so much awareness of how do I budget once I have left school."

He said the closure of banks was a real problem to many.

"The footfall in bank branches has fallen off dramatically, that is why banks are closing branches. The number of cash withdrawals from the Link network of ATMs has also fallen very sharply and it hasn't really recovered now restrictions are over. But that is not a change everyone can cope with.

"There are people who are digitally excluded and can't do online and mobile banking and there are people who really need to budget by knowing what they have got in their pockets.

"Many local businesses need to be able to deposit cash at the end of the day without driving a hundred miles. There is a lot of work going on chaired by the Government related to access to cash and we play our part setting standards to make sure there is abroad geographic spread of ATMs."

He said banks may have to create banking hubs, where they share a space in some areas in danger of having no banks at all, to help local businesses and people who need face to face banking.

But he said the situation now was so much more convenient than 40 years ago when banks closed at the weekend and people caught with no cash in their wallets had to get cheques cashed to get through the weekend.

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