Bank of England to Introduce Polymer Banknotes
Plastic banknotes are going to be introduced to the public beginning with £5 notes in 2016 and £10 in the following year. The announcement comes after a three-year research period, which found that polymer notes last at least 2.5 times longer, stay cleaner for a longer time, and are more difficult to counterfeit. A public consultation found that 87% of 13,000 people who responded were in favour of polymer notes over traditional cotton-paper notes currently in
circulation. According to the bank the consultation showed that people who were able to physically handle the notes were as much as 20% more likely to support polymer notes over respondents on the internet.
The bank admits that the new banknotes will be more expensive to produce initially but over time they will prove to be cheaper due to their superior durability which should extend the average life of notes. In a cost benefit analysis the bank found that over a ten year period the savings would “exceed £100 million”.
During the public consultation one of the frequent questions was about the temperature at which the notes would deteriorate; Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, reassured the public that only extreme heat would cause issues, saying: “They don’t melt in the heat, unless it’s extreme heat. You have to get above boiling for it to actually happen.”
In addition, the Bank of England also announced the new faces of £5 and £10 notes to be introduced at the same time as the polymer notes. Sir Winston Churchill will feature on 2016’s £5 note and Jane Austen on the £10 note around a year later. New guidelines on how the bank selects historical figures to be featured on notes has also been announced. The bank came under pressure after replacing Elizabeth Fry with Sir Winston Churchill on the new £5 notes, which meant that no women other than the Queen would feature on banknotes.