Banks may face fines or be blocked from closing branches beneath plans to guard money use.
Metropolis watchdog the Monetary Conduct Authority (FCA) is reportedly contemplating new guidelines to cease banks from shutting excessive road branches to make sure customers and companies can nonetheless entry money.
It comes as greater than 4,200 branches have now shut since 2015 – with 801 closing since lockdown restrictions have been enforced in March final yr.
Campaigners have lengthy known as for pressing motion to protect cash and notes for the tens of millions who depend on them.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to introduce legal guidelines to guard money entry final yr, and final month the Treasury lastly launched a session into how the laws may work.
Proposals embody handing the FCA powers to advantageous banks that shut branches the place they’re most wanted, and the regulator could even be allowed to implement injunctions and cease some closures from going forward in any respect.
The plans may additionally see 9 out of ten neighbourhoods given the authorized proper to be inside 0.6 miles of someplace they will take out money freed from cost.
The session will run till September 23 however any new legal guidelines may take at the least two years to implement.
Business consultants have instructed Cash Mail that the Treasury is unlikely to view money machines as an equal substitute to the face-to-face service branches provide.
The session additionally goals to make sure ‘cheap entry’ to locations the place folks can deposit money – a service which most ATMs outdoors financial institution branches don’t present.
Gareth Shaw, head of cash at client group Which?, says: ‘The federal government’s proposal to place the FCA accountable for the money system, together with holding business accountable for offering entry, is a crucial step. As money machine and financial institution department numbers proceed to say no sharply, the federal government’s laws plans can’t be launched quickly sufficient.’
A Treasury spokesman mentioned: ‘We all know that money stays important for tens of millions of individuals and we’re dedicated to defending entry to money throughout the UK.’
A UK Finance spokesman mentioned rising numbers of consumers have been turning to new expertise to handle their cash, together with on-line and cell banking.
However he added: ‘Know-how isn’t for everybody and financial institution branches proceed to play an essential function within the lifetime of native communities, that means selections to shut them are by no means taken flippantly.’