Savers deposited record sums at Post Office branches in April, taking the total to more than £1bn for the second month in a row.

The Post Office said it was the first time that personal deposits have topped £1bn for two successive months. A total of £1.07bn was paid in over its counters, following cash deposits of £1.12bn in March. Last September was the only other month when personal cash deposits exceeded £1bn.

Businesses also paid in more cash-in-hand takings, a total of £769m, up 8.8% from the previous month – the highest amount deposited since last October, excluding Christmas. Compared with April 2020, when the UK was in the first full month of lockdown, business cash deposits were up 146%.

Businesses such as pubs, cafes, shops, other small firms and self-employed people including builders and market traders still rely heavily on cash, despite a general shift to online banking and contactless payments.

Martin Kearsley, the banking director at the Post Office, said: “Overall cash deposits and withdrawals continue to recover as lockdown relaxation gathers pace. A 9% increase in business cash deposits is a very encouraging sign that re-opening retailers saw cash coming back into their tills in the second part of April.”

The Post office said that as many bank branches stayed closed during Covid-19 lockdowns or operated limited hours, more people came to its branches to pay in cash. It has an agreement with 30 banks and building societies that allows their customers to withdraw or deposit cash at any of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches.

Consumers withdrew nearly £590m in April, similar to March and the highest amount taken out since last September, excluding Christmas.

Martin McTague, the national vice-chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “These figures are a reminder of the importance of cash to millions of consumers and the vital role played by the Post Office in protecting access to it. With the pandemic accelerating the move to online banking and contactless payments, it’s critical that the banks continue to work through the Post Office network.”

McTague sits on the community access to cash pilots board, launched in February 2020 to help test solutions to ensure free access to cash for local communities. He added: “Cash is not only the first choice payment method for millions of consumers, who often belong to vulnerable groups, it also serves as a backup for when digital systems fail and a competitor to card providers.”

The government said in the March 2020 budget that it would legislate to protect access to cash for as long as people needed it after the Access to Cash Review warned that more than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society. Last month the government accepted an amendment to the financial services bill to allow consumers to use cashback without having to make a purchase.

This content first appear on the guardian

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