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Nationwide criticised for halting Cash Card small withdrawals

Move will hurt vulnerable consumers, say campaign groups.

Nationwide is to stop customers with Cash Card accounts from making over the counter withdrawals of less than £100, saying they will have to use cash points from June 7 instead. However the move by the building society has been criticised by the groups Which? and AGE UK (formerly Help the Aged and Age Concern), who say that it could make it harder for vulnerable groups less comfortable using ATMs to manage their finances.

The change does not affect Nationwide customers who use the Visa Debit Card FlexAccount or passbook-operated accounts. Nationwide said they had taken the move in order to reduce queuing times for over the counter services in its branches. "We have looked at how we can improve the branch experience and have found that around a third of all transactions we see at the counter could be carried out more quickly using a cash machine, the majority of which are situated inside our branches," it said in a statement. "If a branch doesn't have a cash machine, it's not working or the customer has a disability which prevents them from using the cash machine, they can still make a withdrawal at the counter," it added.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.