EAST Lancashire’s ATMs are disappearing, leaving consumers struggling to access cash, new figures have revealed.

Business leaders have warned the loss of cash machines will hit small firms in the area.

An investigation by consumer watchdog Which? has found cash machines in East Lancashire boroughs have reduced from 551 in November 2017 to 538 in April this year.

Pendle has seen the biggest decrease in cash machines with its ATMs falling from 83 in November 2017 to 75 in April 2018.

Hyndburn has also seen cash machines numbers fall from 85 to 79 over the same period, and Blackburn with Darwen has seen a drop from 176 to 172.

Other boroughs have seen a slight increase in cash machine numbers, with 123 recorded in Burnley in April this year compared to 119 in November 2017, while Ribble Valley’s have gone up from 39 to 40 over the same period and Rossendale has stayed the same with 49 machines.

Reasons given for cash machines disappearing include banks closing and increased online transactions.

UK Finance found that in 2016, cash was exclusively relied upon by 2.7 million people in the UK

Blackburn Chamber of Trade president Tony Duckworth said it is a trend that ‘cannot continue’.

He said: “It would mean less cash in the pot for small businesses.

“We’ve seen a lot of bank branches close in East Lancashire in recent years and the ATMs associated with them tend to close at the same time or shortly afterwards.”

Hyndburn’s MP Graham Jones said cashpoints were closing due to rising Link charges to ATM providers.

He said: “Cashpoints are vital. Importantly, pressures on ATMs and new ways of electronic payment and increased online transactions cannot lead to greedy opportunism and an increase in ATM charges.”

It comes after Which? raised concerns that proposals from Link - the UK’s largest cash machine network – to lower its payments by 25 per cent to ATM hosts, could lead to ‘mass closures’ of free-to-use machines across Britain.

The fee in question – currently set at around 25p – is paid by banks per withdrawal to maintain the free-to-use ATM network, but proposals from Link would see interchange fees cut to around 20p over the next four years.