THE abiding failure of the Government to provide a coherent strategy for rural areas is, once again, exposed by today’s report on the future of cashpoints – and how countryside communities are, once again, paying the highest price of all for regulatory failures.
Not only have Ministers allowed the banks – bailed out by taxpayers a decade ago – to dismantle the local branch network without putting adequate alternative arrangements in place for customers who don’t conduct their financial business online, but the same applies to hole-in-the-wall machines.
Essential to many families, they’re fundamental to those people who, through no fault of their own, live in areas that are increasingly bereft of banks, post offices, shops and other essential services. Yet, given the landmark research by the Which? consumer affairs magazine, the Government should be intervening and halting the shake-up to services, run by LINK, until it is satisfied with the safeguards being put in place to protect rural areas as a result of changes in the funding and management of the network.
However the problem is no one has specific responsibility. Business Secretary Greg Clark’s Industrial Strategy overlooked rural needs. Environment Secretary Michael Gove is pre-occupied by Brexit. And Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss is too busy mocking her Cabinet colleagues. This is not an isolated issue – a succession of reports this month have highlighted the extent to which rural Britain is being cut adrift as a consequence of the political vacuum when it comes to the countryside.