Cash or Card?

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How long until we find ourselves living in a cashless society and bank notes are banned in Barnsley?

Will the day come when our fiver note, quids and copper coins are no more? Lost to history, a distant memory like cassette tapes, Marathon chocolate bars, Woolworths and tax discs.

Why are we so loose and carefree with our attitudes to our change and actual physical money?

The answer of course, is the growth of contact-less and digital payment systems, which ultimately means that less people carry cash. Our wallets are empty, purses bare and trouser pockets decidedly less jangly. The future is debit cards and even smart technology like our watches and phones to buy even the smallest of items. In fact, debit cards overtook cash as the preferred method of paying for products in 2018. Sweden is leading the way by banning cash payments on busses and public transport, how long to South Yorkshire follows suit?

So, how does this effect you and should you really care… First don’t underestimate the knock-on effect digital payments are having on our high streets. It’s highly unlikely your village and town centre still has a bank branch. It’s an overly familiar story across the country not just here in Barnsley. Santander recently announced it would be closing 140 banks citing changes in the way customers use their services.

The end of banks on the high street

Across Barnsley, places like Hoyland, Cudworth and Penistone have lost their banks with the former premises now often stood empty or taken over by another takeaway. Ghost that stand as a reminder of different time. Local small businesses relay on the footfall the banks bring onto the high street, with many people untrusting when it comes to online banking. Not to generalise but our older generation likes to deal with an actual person not a machine when it comes to dealing with money. To get the help and advice we all sometimes need. As a result, many people will travel into their larger town/city centers to bank. And then maybe do some a spot of shopping too. Grab a coffee or tasty treat and the result is many independent businesses lose out of their trade. Post Office branches are helping to fill the void as many offer banking services but this service is very much overlooked.

This movement away from cash means we’re even seeing less cash machines in our villages. New changes that may be introduced soon to the UK’s cash machine network could leave hundreds of rural areas and villages without any access to cash machines at all. Or at least free cash machines. Here in Cudworth I’ve lost count of the number of times the cash machines have run out of money too. (Come on, cash machine, you had just one job). Add in the fact that in nearby Hoyland the less desirable characters have been dedicating their time to pulling as many cash machines out of the wall as possible, it more difficult to access our hard earned money.

It’s worth considering the effect a power cut or the Internet going down can have too. A few years ago, Asda supermarket stores across the country descended into chaos as card machines broke down and customers were forced to abandon their shopping. “Carnage and outrage” the headlines screamed and whilst one can only raise a heartless chuckle to customers saying “It was like the world was ending” it proved to be a costly and frustrating day for all involved. Many small shops would be hit hard if they couldn’t take card payments and no cash machines were available.

Add in bank staff cuts and increasing charges when handling digital payments for small businesses and this all adds to a sorry story. Don’t worry this isn’t going to be another article declaring the death of the high street. I’m also not suggesting we rebel against the digital payment revolution. That we rise up to fight our robot masters. It’s too late for that and the system has many positives too (I’m however all for a new bartering system, maybe involving vegetables and sheep. That is the future, trust me). I’m far from a Luddite, and have long championed social media and digital marketing when it comes to promoting our high streets and communities.

What I’m suggesting is that we still have the choice to use either cash or card and access to such facilities. That the powers that be consider the impact a cashless society can have on local communities. As the Chair of a community association in Cudworth, I’m often told by residents that they miss having a bank on the high street. That the loss of banks and cash machines have impacted their lives.

The times they are a changing but we must be careful that we don’t lose essential services from our villages. That it will be a sad day when the quid calls it quits. And if anyone has the 50ps featuring Miss Tiggy-Winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck please drop me a line or I’ll never finish my Beatrix Potter coin collection anytime soon.

Chris Fox is the Chairperson of Cudworth Businesses & Community Together
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