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A petition with over 400 signatures protesting over the planned withdrawal of cheque book facilities was handed over to local MP Peter Luff by the Droitwich Spa Area Forum for Older People today (Friday). Peter Luff promised to pass the petition on to the government.
Mr Luff met members of the Forum at their offices in the council shop in Droitwich High Street and listened to their concerns about the intention of the banks to end all cheque book facilities by 2018.

Members of the Forum explained that older people in particular, who were not confident with or who were unable to use electronic and on-line payments, would be especially hard hit. They also pointed out how many smaller traders relied on cheques to make and receive payments.

Under controversial plans being devised by the Payments Council on behalf of the banks, the cheque will gradually be phased out as banks want to switch to plastic and electronic transfers by October 2018. They say that these new methods are both faster and cheaper.

In December 2009, the Council announced that it had set a target date of 31 October 2018 to close the central cheque clearing system. It said that, given “cheque use is continuing to fall and has been since 1990”, it had to make a choice between “managing this decline or standing on the sidelines and leaving developments to market forces”.

However, the date of 2018 is dependent on having in place such “acceptable alternatives”. The Council has said that the final decision on closure will be taken in 2016.

Commenting, Peter said,

“I think we can all see that the numbers of cheques being written out is in decline – indeed many leading high street shops now just refuse to take them. So I accept that a date will have to come when they are entirely withdrawn. But October 2018 is just too soon. Older people won’t be able to change the habits of a lifetime and they shouldn’t be asked to – it’s just not fair. The banks need to be a lot more sensitive to the people they serve.

“Although I will pass this petition to the government – to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and to the Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, I realise it is a decision for the banks. I do hope the government can help persuade the banks not to ride roughshod over the genuine concerns of the 400 people who have signed this petition – they represent a much larger group who are really worried.”


Photograph shows Peter Luff receiving the petition from Sheila Neary, accompanied by members of the Droitwich Spa Area Forum for Older People

Notes to editors:

The Payments Council is the organisation that sets strategy for UK payments. It has been established to ensure that UK payment systems and services meet the need of users, payment service providers and the wider economy. They say of their decision:

“The high-level targets that need to be met in order for a “final go” decision to be made to abolish cheques are:

• there will be alternatives to cheques accessible to users for all significant types of payment where cheques continue to be used;

• these alternatives will have shown themselves to be acceptable to users, in particular there will be widespread awareness and adoption of these alternatives;

• the Council will have determined what measures to put in place to ensure that those users least equipped to change are not disadvantaged, including any requirements for the use of paper to continue.
“Figures show it costs up to £1 to process a cheque – four times more than it costs to handle an electronic payment. The move will save banks hundreds of millions each year.”

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