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LINK'S FINANCIAL INCLUSION PROGRAMME TO ROLL OUT MORE FREE CASH MACHINES NOW LIVE

• SITES FOR FREE MACHINES ALREADY AGREED IN 202 OF 309 PRIORITY AREAS
• 57 NEW FREE CASH MACHINES ALREADY INSTALLED

Changes to LINK’s rules and systems taking effect tomorrow (Thursday 1 March) will support the installation of free cash machines in over 300 target areas previously without free machines. Banks and building societies issuing LINK cards can now offer financial incentives to cash machine operators who install and operate free cash machines in certain areas.

The move follows an agreement in December 2006, between banks, building societies, ATM operators, Members of Parliament and consumer groups to widen the free cash machine network in target communities without free machines.(1)

Looking across the whole of the UK, the 2006 ATM Working Group agreement identified 309 priority areas where communities of 3,000 plus people lacked convenient access to a free-of-charge ATM, as well as a number of smaller areas where a free machine was likely to be particularly valuable to a local community. Consumer groups and financial institutions agreed that a total of about 600 new free machines was needed.

384 new free machines have since been installed or are under contract to be installed. This means that 202 (65%) of these priority areas, as well as many of the smaller areas, are set to have a new free cash machine. Progress towards deploying the full 600 is continuing.

Treasury committee chairman John McFall MP, who chaired the ATM Working Group, said: “I am delighted with the progress being made on this initiative. The uptake for these free machines in just three months has been remarkable. The fact that firm sites have been found and agreed for nearly 400 of these machines already is a clear signal that they were much needed and welcome in the communities they are now or soon will be serving. What we need now is a final push to reach the target figure of 600, and the financial incentives to machine operators should help to achieve this goal.”

The Villages Housing Association in Fitton Hill, Oldham, was one of the first sites to receive a free cash machine following the December agreement. Villages owns and manages around 915 properties on the Fitton Hill estate and a free HBOS machine was installed in the lobby early in the New Year.

Sue Ward, office manager for the association said: "As we are always trying to improve the service provided to our tenants, we were more than happy to agree to the installation of the cash machine in our reception area. Since installation there have been plenty of very appreciative comments from tenants and staff alike who have used the free cash withdrawal and balance checking facility. We've also noted lots of new faces are visiting the housing office to use the facilities.”

Edwin Latter, LINK Scheme Director said: “All of LINK’s 50 Member banks, building societies and independent operators are contributing to this initiative. Since December’s announcement, we have received tremendous support from a number of MPs, local authorities and community schemes in finding sites and this has helped LINK Members find locations for the new free machines. A free cash machine can make a significant difference to a local area because money withdrawn is usually spent in the area, helping sustain local business. With these 382 carefully placed machines, around 1 million people will now have convenient access to a free machine in places where there was none before. The work to fill the remaining gaps continues.”

Nicola O’Reilly, Senior Policy Advocate at the National Consumer Council, said: “The NCC welcomes the industry initiative to introduce a financial inclusion premium, which is set to ensure sustained provision of free local ATMs to many of the UK’s lower-income communities. Communities must now come forward with sites to ensure that all of the new cash machines pledged by cash machine operators can be installed and deliver free access to cash for the least well off consumers.”

Francesca Hopwood-Road of Citizens Advice added: “We’re very pleased with the work LINK has done on this. Citizens Advice bureaux identified many low-income areas with no access to free cash machines. People on low incomes are particularly hit by charges as they take out small amounts of money on a more frequent basis. Rural communities are also badly affected, forcing people to travel miles to the nearest free cash machine or pay a high charge. More sites do need to be found but we also need all the banks and building societies prioritising low-income areas for new free machines."

Potential ATM landlords, such as convenience stores, public authorities and community centres, are still being invited by LINK and its members to help pinpoint new locations in the remaining target communities. Details of the remaining areas can be found on the LINK website at:

http://www.link.co.uk/atm/access_to_cash/area_list.php

Potential cash machine landlords can work directly with ATM deployers or submit suggestions through the LINK website at:

http://www.link.co.uk/atm/access_to_cash/public_suggestion_a...

Guidance on what might make a site suitable can also be found on the LINK website.(4)
Notes

(1) The agreement was reached in the ATM Working Group chaired by Treasury Committee chairman John McFall MP. The full report of the Working Group may be found at:
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/documents/financial_services/f...

(2) 96% of cash withdrawals in the UK were made free of charge in 2006. At end-January 2006, there were over 61,250 cash machines in the UK, 34,893 of which were free-to-use and 26,358 pay-to-use.

(3) The target areas were agreed in consultation with consumer groups, representatives of the Treasury Committee and with the assistance of HM Treasury staff. The focus is on lower-income areas more than 1km from the nearest free machine. The full list of areas may be found in the Working Group report and on the LINK website.

(4) In finding an ideal location for a new free ATM the following factors are important:

• Footfall – the number of people passing the site
• Visibility – would the cash machine be easily seen by passers-by?
• Demand for cash – are there places nearby such as local shops, markets and pubs where people might need to use cash?
• Access – would there be a need to use the ATM out of hours, for example, at the evening or weekend?
• Security – is the area unthreatening and well lit, would you be comfortable withdrawing cash?

About LINK

LINK is the operator of the UK cash machine network, connecting almost every cash machine – free and charging – in the UK. The LINK ATM Scheme brings together the banks, building societies and other institutions that issue the 105 million cards enabled for use in the LINK Network, and the operators of the 61,250 UK ATMs that make up that Network.

www.link.co.uk

LINK Media Enquiries:

Heather Baker/Kathryn Hughes:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7612 1830
Email: Heather@hblmedia.com / kathryn@hblmedia.com