Consumer group said bank and ATM closures and rise of online payments meant many communities were 'struggling to access the cash they rely on' © Susan Norwood/Alamy

Which? calls for protection for Britain’s remaining cash users

The consumer rights watchdog Which? has called for the appointment of a new regulator to protect the interests of millions of people who still use cash, writes Kate Beioley.

According to data from the consumer group, cashpoint machines in the UK disappeared at a rate of almost 500 a month in the second half of 2018 — more than half of them free-to-use machines — as UK businesses and consumers move to digital payments. This has led to fears of “ATM deserts” being created outside the large cities.

Cash machine operators have also warned that controversial planned reductions in the fees they receive from card issuers will make thousands of cash points uneconomical to run.

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UK inflation rate slips below 2% for first time in two years

Cheaper petrol has contributed to falling inflation © PA

A fall in energy prices drove Britain’s inflation rate below the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target in January for the first time in two years, according to data released on Wednesday, writes Valentina Romei.

Consumer prices increased at an annual rate of 1.8 per cent, down from 2.1 per cent in December, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

“The fall in inflation is due mainly to cheaper gas, electricity and petrol, partly offset by rising ferry ticket prices and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year,” said Mike Hardie, head of inflation at the ONS.

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Starling raises £75m as it plots European expansion

Starling Bank has become the latest in a wave of British challenger banks to raise new funding from investors, with asset manager Merian Global Investors leading a £75m investment round, writes Nicholas Megaw.

Starling said the money would be used to invest in new products and help it launch in the rest of Europe later this year.

The news follows similar investments in rivals such as N26 and Monzo in recent months. Like them, Starling started by offering an app-based current account, which currently has around 460,000 customers. However, it has since expanded into small business banking, and also sells access to its payments infrastructure to other financial services groups.

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Car credit is driving wealthy UK towns into debt

© Ricky Deacon/Dreamstime

Guildford, an affluent commuter town in London’s so-called stockbroker belt, is the location for a personal debt boom that has sparked concerns among economists about the sustainability of the UK economy, writes Gavin Jackson.

Unsecured personal debt in the area rose by more than 30 per cent between 2013 and 2018 — one of the highest rates in the country, according to an FT analysis of data from the major high street banks.

The analysis revealed a strong correlation between increased personal borrowing and car ownership, a result of the transformation of Britain’s car market through personal contract purchases over the past decade.

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MPs and peers call on ministers to fix flawed RPI inflation measure

RPI is used to adjust rail fares © Lauren Hurley/PA

An influential group of parliamentarians has called on the chancellor to allow the UK’s flawed retail price index measure of inflation to be fixed, adding to pressure on the government and the outgoing national statistician to stop ignoring the issue, writes Chris Giles.

In a joint statement on Tuesday by the Treasury select committee and the Lords economic affairs committee, they urged the statistical authorities to seek consent from the chancellor to fix the RPI index and end a “ridiculous merry-go-round” of inaction.

The law requires the Office for National Statistics to publish the RPI, but known errors in its calculation mean it gives a misleadingly high recording of inflation.

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