Access To Cash
Access to cash is a social justice issue. That's why I tabled a motion that Havering Council protect and promote access to cash whilst also accepting cash payments.
My motion didn't pass, as Conservatives are in the minority. However, we did move the dial and create a conversation. The council now recognises digital exclusion and is looking at how best to support those who rely on cash.
My speech below.
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Thank you, Mr Mayor, can I start by thanking the administration for the amendments to the amendments that you made, you use that to acknowledge that digital exclusion is a real issue and I appreciate that, it's something that I take very personally.
I think this is a social justice issue and I appreciate that wording being added.
Mr Mayor, access to cash is a social justice issue.
The 2019 Access to Cash Review, the government launched, stated that 17% of our population would struggle to cope in a cashless society. They found that 1.5m people in UK don't have bank account, that 9% are at risk of greater debt in a cashless society and that 2% of the UK have got a physical or mental health issue that makes it difficult for them to rely on digital financial services.
Mr Mayor, it's worth asking "who needs cash?" in this situation. Small businesses are often required to pay a transaction fee for every payment by card, if customers are walking into a store tapping that contactless card for a £1 item, that business can sometimes have to pay as much as 5p of their profits towards that at a time when our businesses are stretched, that's something to worry about.
Mr Mayor, older residents often pay their friends or relatives in cash as they help them to shop, we know as well that low-income families rely heavily on cash.
Mr Mayor, the same report found that 80% of the elderly and 75% of those on low income rely on cash. The cashless society imminent, but unfortunately it will be discriminatory.
Mr Mayor, Havering Council has a duty to protect the vulnerable and the motion before us has three asks. We're asking we protect access to cash, that we promote access to cash, and also, that the council accept cash payments for all it's services.
I want to start with the last of those, accepting cash payments I'm aware obviously that's a relatively expensive thing for the Council to do, to have someone go around collect change from the parking machines can cost money, to have somebody taking your library fines or your council tax in cash, it's going to cost money to do so, But Mr Mayor, that's important for a large number of people in Romford and in Havering to be able to do that.
Moving on from that, we're asking the council to protect access to cash. Now this may sound like a bizarre one to a lot of people. What has the Council got to do with our high-street accepting cash payments or not? Well, Mr Mayor, the council, as I said, has a duty to protect the vulnerable. Part of that duty is to lead by example and to make sure that small businesses are able to offer certain services.
In Rochford, Essex, the council supported. what's known as a community bank, this was done in partnership with the post office. Santander, NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC. Customers from all those banks have got a specific, physical place, they can go to take cash from an ATM or to conduct cash transactions with their branch.
That's a great example of where the Council can protect access to cash by providing a new service. Similarly, I have received email from LINK, the ATM provider that provides most of the ATMs across the country. They have a community cashpoint machine, where communities can request that LINK install machine that is free to use.
That, Mr Mayor, is a great example of where the council can protect access to cash by finding black spots. Where is not ATM access and requesting community ATM installations.
On the final part of the motion, promoting access to cash, there are other things that the council can do there are national schemes, national campaigns that state "we are happy to accept cash". And these are campaigns that small businesses, and large businesses, across the UK are taking part in.
The Co-op have led by example in doing this and I commend them for doing do, Asda has done the same thing, as has Marks and Spencer's and a number of other retail stores.
Mr Mayor, if we were to declare that Havering was a "cash friendly borough" if we were to work with our small businesses to make sure that they can take part in that scheme, if we were to promote "Happy to take cash" across our borough we may see a benefit to our small businesses as those that rely on cash for their transactions, know that they have somewhere they can go.
As I said multiple times, Mr Mayor our council has a duty to protect our most vulnerable I believe access to cash is a part of that. By protecting, promoting and accepting cash payments and access to cash, we'll be putting a stake in the ground and telling our most vulnerable that we hear their issues, we see their problems and we're willing to do something about it.