Concerns have been raised after a councillor was told there is a shortage of money in County Durham cash machines because of attempts by burglars to steal them by ripping them from shops.

Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth raised the issue following complaints ATMs in Weardale were always running out of bank notes.

Now he has been told by NoteMachine it was because of attempts to steal the machines during store break-ins.

The Northern Echo: The machine at the Lakes and Dales Coop store in Stanhope is said to be short of cash The machine at the Lakes and Dales Coop store in Stanhope is said to be short of cash (Image: Contributor)

In an email seen by the Northern Echo, Alex Leckenby, the company’s head of information assurance, said: “I can completely understand your concern about the number of times in 2023 when the ATM has been unable to dispense cash and the impact that this has had on the local community.

“However, as you may be aware, there have been a number of attacks on ATMs over the last two weeks in the County Durham area, particularly in Frosterley and St John’s Chapel.

“These attacks were ‘rip-outs’ and on site break-ins. One of the impacts of ‘rip-outs’ is that they usually result in significant property damage as well as potentially causing a risk to members of the public.

“Due to the vicinity of the attacks, we took the decision to de-cash a number of ATMs and therefore reduce the risk of these machines being attacked, with the associated risk to personnel and property.”

Cllr Shuttleworth said he was concerned about people being able to access cash when Barclays closed its branch in Stanhope in April.

In his email Mr Leckenby said: “With an ATM as important as Stanhope we did not take this decision lightly but it was taken on the basis of the potential risks involved with leaving cash in the ATM.

“One of the contributory factors that makes the Stanhope ATM vulnerable is its location which is relatively isolated.

“If this vulnerability could be addressed through increased support from the local police, this would provide us with greater assurance around the security of the ATM.

“We will continue to monitor the situation locally and as soon as we feel that the risk level has reduced sufficiently, we will replenish the ATM.”

Durham Constabulary said it received reports of an attempted burglary at a shop in Frosterley shortly before midnight on Friday, November 17.

Officers were then called to a burglary at a shop in St John’s Chapel at about 12.30am on Saturday, November 18.

A further incident was reported at the same premises in St John’s Chapel on Monday, November 20, at about 3.30pm.

It is understood the stores targeted were Lakes and Dales Co-operative outlets.

A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “No money was taken but damage was caused to the cash machine in St John’s Chapel.

“An investigation is underway into the circumstances of all three incidents and enquiries are ongoing.”

The Northern Echo: Councillor John Shuttleworth Councillor John Shuttleworth (Image: Northern Echo)Cllr Shuttleworth said: “There is, has been, and continues to be a problem with the machine having no cash to dispense, or cards being swallowed up.

“Barclays Bank assured me that when their cash machine was removed, the Coop ATM would cope with extra use.

“It is a concern to me that residents are being starved from cash in a world where the Government are committed to having the availability of cash to all.”

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nyone with any information for police is asked to email quoting incident reference 43 of November 20.

Lakes and Dales Co-operative and NoteMachine have all been contacted for further comment.

Barclays has declined to comment on the issue.