Village could lose free ATM due to charges

Allan McGonigal says he may be forced to take out an ATM machine at this Polmont store
Allan McGonigal says he may be forced to take out an ATM machine at this Polmont store
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A shop owner says he may be forced to take out a village’s free to use ATM due to “extortionate” rates that have more than doubled the cost to have the service.

Allan McGonigal, of the Premier Store in Polmont’s Main Street, is to appeal a decision to raise the cost of providing a cash machine for the village from £2000 to a staggering £4850.

The shop has another ATM operated by Alliance and Leicester, which still has two years left to run on a contract that was signed by the previous store owners, but that doesn’t facilitate for all types of accounts.

The ATM at the BP petrol station further along Main Street is also a paid-for service.

Rates for ATMs are determined by the Scottish Assessors Association and bills are collected by local authorities – in this case Falkirk Council.

Mr McGonigal stresses he receives between one and two pence for each transaction at the cash machine which basically pays for the original £2000 charge.

However, if it is to be raised to the proposed amount, he wouldn’t be able to afford to keep it, especially as his shop rates have also shot up – which he is also in disagreement with the council about.

He said: “The ATM is there to provide a service to the community for people to access their money. I don’t make money, or not that much anyway if I do.

“It is the only one in the village that accepts all types of cards and is free to use. It accepts Post Office accounts which is great for older people and those on benefits, and then there is easy access for disabled people.

“It has been used much more since the Bank of Scotland in the village closed down, but I feel like I’m being penalised for the bank shutting. Because it’s being used more now someone somewhere is saying small businesses like my own have to pay through the nose now.

“How are small businesses meant to survive and provide this service with charges like this?”

A spokesman for the Central Scotland Assessor said the process for the valuation of remote ATM sites is “robust”, but there is a process which can leave “discretion” for charges down to the local authority, but only after an appeal which would be heard in September.

Falkirk Council say Community Empowerment allows targeted relief, fully funded by councils, but it would need Executive/Council approval. Only one authority in Scotland – Perth and Kinross – has used this power to date.

Hardship Relief can be awarded based on an individual business’s situation, but this is only for a maximum of six months to allow companies time to realise benefits of any changes made to business financing.

A spokesperson said: “Community Empowerment Act allows Falkirk Council to provide rates relief, beyond the statutory reliefs available, but the cost of any relief is met in full by Falkirk Council. At this stage there are no plans to implement such a scheme, but this matter is constantly kept under review.”