Press release

Councils urged to boost access to free-to-use cash machines on high streets

Councils are being urged to use their business rates powers to increase access to free-to-use cash machines on high streets and in town centres.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

High street

Companies who install and operate cash machines generally pay business rates to the local authority for each machine.

Small convenience stores can struggle with this despite there being help available from government that reduces costs by offering business rates discounts to these firms.

Councils opting to provide a local discount on rates can incentivise shops and cash point providers to install new machines and remove charges on pay-to-use machines.

The government wants councils to make full use of these powers to benefit local residents and make fee-free withdrawals widely available on all high streets and in neighbourhoods.

Under the government’s business rates retention scheme, central government funds 50% of the cost of any local discount granted.

High Street Minister Penny Mordaunt said:

People should not have to pay through the nose to access their cash. Free-to-use cash machines are a vital service that we are asking councils to take seriously.

Councils can reduce rates for providers that commit to introduce new cash machines into areas, or remove charges on existing machines.

We want councils to use their local business rates discount powers to ensure better access to cash machines in all areas and on our high streets.

The Association of Convenience Stores is keen for councils to make use of their local powers and is launching a guide for shopkeepers and councils that makes clear the benefits rate relief can bring.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said:

ATMs located in local shops, cafés and other businesses and accessed from the street provide an essential service to high streets and local communities. Over half of convenience stores now include an ATM as part of their offer to customers.

Councils should be thinking about using discretionary rate relief to reduce the costs of operating these services so that we can see more free-to-use cash machines supporting more high streets and local centres.

The government has issued advice for councils looking to use these powers to improve access to cash machines.

Frank Field MP, who has been campaigning for improved access to free-to-use cash machines in deprived areas, said:

I applaud the government for the stance it has taken on this. There is real momentum now behind our campaign to protect the poor from having to pay to withdraw cash, and we need as a next step the industry itself to work with councils to make the most of this.

Cash payment still plays a major role in the UK’s economy. Statistics released by the Payments Council show that cash is still used in over half of all payments in the UK, with cash payment particularly prevalent amongst older or disabled customers.

The government is determined to support communities and hard working families. It has reformed business rates to support local businesses and help rejuvenate high streets and town centres, and has introduced measures including:

  • a 50% business rates discount for 18 months for new businesses setting up in stores vacant for a more than a year
  • a cut in business rates for small shops, a new £1,500 retail discount and doubling small business rate relief - which is helping an estimated half a million small firms

These measures are part of support now worth £1.4 billion for 2015 to 2016. The government also recently announced it will review the future structure of business rates.

Further information

The government has taken a series of steps to help local firms with business rates:

  • doubling small business rate relief since 2010; this has been extended for another year to 2016 – supporting 575,000 of the smallest businesses; 385,000 business will pay no rates at all
  • allowing small firms to keep their small business rate relief where they take on a second property, helping them expand
  • making small business rate relief easier to claim
  • increasing the £1,000 business rate discount available in 2014 to 2015 to a £1,500 discount in 2015 to 2016 for shops, pubs and restaurants with a Rateable Value of up to £50,000, helping 278,000 firms
  • a 50% discount for 18 months to new occupants of vacant shops, bringing them back into use
  • a 2% cap in Retail Price Index increase in business rates for a second year – benefitting 1.3 million properties
  • giving ratepayers a new legal right to pay bills over 12 instalments (rather than 10), helping firms with their cash flow;
  • implementing the local retention of business rates, giving councils a direct financial incentive to support business, and ensuring the government funds for 50% of all council discretionary discounts
  • blocking the imposition of even higher business rates on large shops

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Published 26 December 2014