'It makes Wonga look like Santa Claus': MP attacks lack of free ATMs available to people in poorest areas


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The Independent Online

The 'grotesque practice' of charging low-income people to withdraw their own money from bank accounts has been condemned after a report revealed that more than 300,000 of the poorest people in Britain live at least 1km from a cash machine that does not charge for withdrawals.

Figures obtained from the Link network by the Guardian newspaper showed there were 269 low-income areas without a free ATM nearby, meaning people have to travel or pay anything from 75p to £10 to take out cash.

The Labour MP Frank Field, who advises the Government on poverty, said: “If you are a single young man, unemployed on benefits, you are charged £3 to take out your £56 a week in local shops. That's a rip-off that makes Wonga look like Santa Claus.”

He said it was time to “take the gloves off with the industry, as soft reasoning has not worked”.

“Getting the poor to pay for the privilege of taking out their own money is a grotesque practice, which should end immediately,” Mr Field said.

John Howells, the chief executive of Link, told The Guardian: “If lower-income people were forced to use surcharging machines then this would be a clear hardship and not tenable. However, Link's evidence is that this is not the case and most people can access cash on a free basis.

“Over the country as a whole, the number of free-to-use and pay-to-use ATMs is higher in more deprived areas. This is because there is more demand for cash in these areas and more suitable premises available, such as convenience stores.”

Link, which runs the ATM network, has previously admitted that there are “increasing risks to the universal access-to-cash position that consumers have in the UK”.