What should councils do to help revive high streets where shops and pubs are closed or struggling? First they should do no harm. Or, try to do less harm. Business Rates are a terrible burden which councils could and should ease. A more modest but still positive impact is to allow more shops to install cash machines (or "Automatic Telling Machines.")
If people can easily get hold of cash for small transactions - for a newspaper, a pint of milk, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine - they are more likely to use their corner shop. 91% of transactions under £25 are in cash.
The attitude of planning officers to more of these machines is often unduly negative. The machines seldom have long queues so the notion that the pavement will often be blocked with crowds is unreasonable. Similarly the idea that they inspire a large amount of illegal parking is exaggerated. There should be some sense of proportion with these objections put against the benefits to local small businesses.
Some say that cash is out of date. But there is still a lot of it about. £180 billion of the stuff is taken out of cash machines a year. Many of the machines operate independently of banks. Indeed if banks were the only places to get money it would be very tiresome. According to the Campaign for Community Banking Services more than 7,500 branches have closed since 1990 - nearly half. The number is still falling.