Calls by MPS that any big fall in the number of ATMS across the country “would clearly be of concern” and must be avoided, totally conflict with some of the actions other government departments are taking towards ATMs, according to Colliers International, the global property consultancy business.

Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Commons Treasury Committee has voiced her concern about “ATM deserts” and has called that the network that oversees free-to-use cash machines ensures there is an even spread of ATMs across the country. She has written to the head of the Link network to stress this, following the announcement by Link that it would reduce the amount it charges card issuers to allow customers to use the machines from around 25p per withdrawal to 20p. Ms Morgan is concerned that “a 20% reduction in the interchange fee received by an ATM operator may mean that some machines are no longer economically viable. “

But says John Webber, Head of Business Rating at Colliers International, “Link’s activities pale into insignificance compared to the actions the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), a government department, is taking towards threatening the viability of ATMs."

The VOA is currently appealing against the ruling in the Upper Tribunal in January 2017*  that the sites of ATMs located within premises should not be assessed for business rates, but those ATM sites outside a shop or store should. It is insisting that the sites of ATMs inside stores should be separately assessed and retailers should pay the business rates tax on them, in addition to their normal store rates costs. Colliers estimate this could cost store operators dearly, since each ATM site would attract an average rates liability of £5000, providing yet another financial burden on those retailers suffering from higher rate bills following the 2017 Revaluation.

“If the VOA got its way at the Court of Appeal, there is no doubt many stores would be ripping ATMs out to avoid the extra business rate tax bill. “says Webber. “Whether ATMs sites should be paying business rates at all, whether inside or outside a store is a matter for debate, but it is double standards for Ministers to call for the protection of ATMs on one hand, whilst presenting those who control them with a big tax bill.”

"The Minister should look at her own Government’s actions if she wants to make sure communities across the UK are not denied access to cash from free ATMs. “

* Sainsbury's Supermarket Ltd, Sainsbury's Bank Plc, Cardtronics Europe Limited, Tesco Stores Ltd, Co-Operative Group Limited v Chris Sykes and Others (Valuation Officers) 

Colliers Manifesto for Business Rates Reform includes:

1.     Increase funding for VOA in order to deal with existing appeals’ backlog;

2.     Release VOA from pressure exerted by local councils and HM Treasury;

3.     Introduce a register of appeals professionals – removing the ‘cowboy’ element;

4.     Root and branch reform of current business rates exemptions and reliefs.