Bank of England to print polymer £50 banknote

The Treasury has announced it is to retain the £50 note - which has come under criticism over the role of high value notes in illicit transactions - but is to issue a new, more secure polymer version

The proposed mix of coins and notes will remain as it is currently. Originally introduced in 1981, there are currently 330m £50 notes in circulation - with a combined value of £16.5bn - and the Treasury points to Bank of England evidence showing that demand for the note is continuing to rise.

The Bank of England says a new £50 polymer note will be printed in the UK to accompany the existing £5, £10 and upcoming £20 notes.

Robert Jenrick, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Our coins and notes are respected and recognised the world over and are a key part of the UK’s heritage and identity. People should have as much choice as possible when it comes to their money and we are making sure that cash is here to stay.

‘Our money needs to be secure and this new note will help prevent crime.’

The Bank of England’s chief cashier, Sarah John, said: 'I am very excited to be starting the process of introducing a new £50 note. At the Bank, we are committed to providing the public with high quality notes they can use with confidence.
 
'Moving the £50 note onto polymer is an important next step to ensure that we can continue to do that.'
 
In 2016 Peter Sands, former group chief executive at Standard Charted Bank and a government adviser, who is now an academic at the Harvard Kennedy School for business and government, published a paper with proposals to remove from circulation high denomination, high value currency notes, such as the €500 note, the $100 bill, the CHF1,000 note and the £50 note. The paper argued such notes are the preferred payment mechanism of those pursuing illicit activities, given the anonymity and lack of transaction record they offer, and the relative ease with which they can be transported and moved.
 
In May 2018 the Treasury held a public consultation on the proposal to scrap the £50 note. At the time the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) highlighted that the Treasury view did not correspond with the experiences of many who frequently receive payments that include £50 notes, including taxi drivers and antique dealers. Responding to the announcement Phil Hall, AAT head of public affairs & public policy, said: 'AAT’s members views on this issue were clear. We are pleased that the Government and Bank of England have listened to the arguments against scrapping the £50 note and welcome the imminent switch to polymer. 
 
'As we made clear from the outset, such decisions must be made on evidence rather than perception and we therefore hope that the mix of polymer notes continue for as long as consumers and businesses want and need them to.'
 
Report by Pat Sweet

 

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