More than 400 Post Offices are to lose their Post Office ATMs as service provider Bank of Ireland looks to further reduce its involvement with the Post Office.

The figure represents approximately one in five  of the 2,100 ATMs across the group’s franchise and crown post office estate.

A Post Office spokesperson confirmed: “The licence for ATMs at a number of branches have expired and we are working closely with our ATM provider, Bank of Ireland, regarding the suitability of maintaining an ATM at each branch.” It added that postmasters affected are informed “as many weeks as possible in advance” in order to help them look for an alternate provider if they wish and support material including posters for customers has been provided.

“We are currently reviewing our wider ATM strategy over the coming months and will share details with our Postmasters in due course,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson from the National Federation of SubPostmasters said the numbers to be cut are ‘undecided’ and relate to leases coming to an end, with decisions made by Bank of Ireland ‘on a case-by-case basis.’

The trade body called on banks to protect free access to cash, it stated: “There is a significant proportion of the population that still relies heavily on cash. It is our view that banks should pay a subsidy to support free-to-use ATMs at post offices, particularly in rural locations.”

For partnered retailers, the loss of the official cash machines represents a large financial loss, with many generating more than £5,000 in annual payments. Mark Baker, Communication Workers Union national branch secretary said: “As the Post Office’s remuneration for retailers declined, stores became more reliant on these ATM revenues, there will be some branches out there deciding on whether it is feasible to continue trading.”

Sources told BetterRetailing that the Bank of Ireland blamed the move on declining ATM transaction volumes, the age of the machines and cuts to the interchange fees paid by banks to ATM operators.

However, not all the sites informed they will have their machines removed are using legacy ATMs or experiencing transaction decline. Long Ashton Post Office in Bristol has experienced year on year increases in ATM usage and had a new machine installed three years ago. Co-owner Andrew Crabb explained: “We’re one of 400 that are to close over the next four to five months, even though our ATM numbers are up. I’ve even heard that numbers may be up across the entire UK Post Office and Bank of Ireland ATM network.”

Crabb added that some post offices including one in a nearby WHSmith had already had their Post Office ATM removed. “We put a sign up and our customers have written to the Post Office to complain, it’s an important service for when the Post Office is not open.”

The NFSP said it was: “In discussion with a number of ATM providers with the aim of developing a solution for affected subpostmasters so that they can continue to offer ATM services in future. We would want these to be free-to-use for the consumer.”