A cross-party group of 37 MPs has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to bring forward action to protect access to cash, and warning the UK’s ATM network, which was already fragile due to cuts to the interchange fee, is in imminent danger of collapse due to the Covid-19 emergency.

In their letter they said: “We welcomed your Budget commitment to bring forward legislation to protect access to cash, but we are urging you to bring this action forward immediately. Covid-19 is threatening the collapse of this infrastructure and once it is gone it cannot be replaced.”

They pointed out that Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of cash, especially for vulnerable people needing others to food shop on their behalf.

They poured scorn on provisions by Link to guarantee ATM services, describing them as “derisory” and urged the Chancellor to reverse the cuts made to the fee paid by banks to ATM providers for every cash withdrawal (the interchange fee).

They added: “These cuts have saved banks £200m since July 2018 when the first cut took place. Link’s new scheme, which will cost banks a mere £4m, falls significantly short in filling this gap. With banks refusing to properly fund the ATM network, customers are losing out as free-to-use cash machines become unviable meaning operators must start charging. This is happening as banks increasingly withdraw their own frontline services and close branches across the UK.”