More than 100 MPs have urged Barclays to reverse its decision to end over-the-counter cash withdrawals for customers from Post Office branches from next year.
In a letter to Barclays chief executive Jes Staley, the cross-party group call for the bank to help end the “cash crisis” facing their constituents.
The MPs fear the bank’s decision, which was announced last week, will hit the most vulnerable communities the hardest.
Pressure has been mounting on Barclays since it emerged that it will stop allowing its customers to make cash withdrawals from Post Office branches from January 8 2020.
Around 15 million cash withdrawals were made by Barclays customers through the Post Office last year.
Some five million cash deposits were also made – although Barclays is remaining in the cash deposit part of the Post Office’s framework.
The letter was co-ordinated by Chris Elmore, Labour MP for Ogmore in Wales, and is supported by MPs including former Commons leader Mel Stride and shadow economic secretary to the Treasury Jonathan Reynolds.
It reads: “This change will only add to the cash crisis many of the most vulnerable and elderly in our communities are currently facing.
“We would strongly urge you to reverse this decision to prevent your customers – and our constituents – from being left behind in the wake of the banking sector’s digitisation.”
The letter says Barclays’ decision “sends a message – rightly or wrongly – that those who cannot properly access the digital economy will have the carpet dragged from under their feet as our high street banks continue to abandon the communities that have sustained them for decades”.
In the letter, the MPs offer to meet Mr Staley to discuss their concerns in person, adding: “We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.”
A Barclays spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge receipt of the letter from Chris Elmore MP, and we are working with him and other MPs to confirm our new commitments that will ensure that no one will be left without access to cash.”
A range of groups have already expressed strong concerns.
The Treasury Committee has previously said Barclays’ move is “hugely disappointing”, adding that “the use of cash cannot be left to wither on the vine”.
Consumer group Which? recently found that Barclays had closed 481 branches – around a third of its network – between the start of 2015 and August 2019.
Gareth Shaw, head of money, Which?, said: “Barclays has shown real disregard to the needs of its customers through its reckless move to cease cash withdrawals from the Post Office.
“MPs are right to challenge this ill-conceived decision that risks leaving many of their constituents facing an uphill struggle just to access the cash they need.”
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has said it will be “closely monitoring” the steps Barclays plans to take.
Mr Elmore said: “We recognise that our economy is becoming inherently digital but that mustn’t mean we leave behind those who aren’t able to make this transition overnight.
“Stripping away the already minute level of banking services available on our high streets lets down those communities who have supported these banks for decades.”
Barclays’ customers will still be able to access other services such as continuing to deposit cash and cheques at the Post Office after this date.
Other banks have agreed to maintain the full range of services they currently offer through the Post Office.
Barclays has also announced that it plans to introduce a cashback scheme from next year involving small businesses, and has pledged not to close branches in remote areas or where it is the last bank in town for the next two years.
Post Office banking services director Martin Kearsley said: “We understand why customers and many others are so worried and disappointed by Barclays’ decision.
“We share this disappointment because we are committed to delivering key everyday services to as many customers as possible.
“Our free cash withdrawal service for customers of UK banks is a real lifeline for millions of customers in communities across the country.
“We are delighted that 27 banks have recognised that our network of over 11,500 branches, 6,000 of which are in rural areas, offers by far the best solution for easy access to vital cash withdrawals wherever people live in the UK.”
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry said: “This cross-party group of MPs is absolutely right to ask Barclays to think again.
“The Post Office plays a vital role in enabling access to cash for small business owners and their customers, particularly in remote areas that have been disproportionately hit by bank branch and ATM closures.
“That role can only continue if the banks get behind it; 27 already have, Barclays would do well to follow their lead.”
Adam Rowse, managing director of branch-based banking at Barclays, said last week: “By maintaining last-in-town or remote branches over the next two years, and working with the community, we hope to increase demand and keep these branches viable.
“We also recognise that there are opportunities to support customers with access to cash where there is no branch or ATM nearby.
“We are launching a cashback offering working with merchants to give customers access to cash over the counter.”