Monday, September 12, 2016
It is clear no one in the Bank of England believes in bad omens. Anyone with a superstitious leaning would surely have rejected the 13th of ANY month for the launch of the new UK polymer £5 note!
So tomorrow it is. The beginning of the end of paper money in the UK - at least as far as £5 notes are concerned - as plastic continues its march towards world domination ( and pollution?).
The Bank has based its case for the introduction of polymer notes on the proposition that they will last much longer, therefore reducing production costs, because such notes will not have to be replaced as frequently as the paper variety.
Many have questioned the wisdom of this seismic change. Some have cited the cost of adapting machines - including ATM's - as the main negative. Others have claimed polymer is not the best solution, even if change is required. Yet another faction have railed simply because a tradition of paper notes is to be ended.
In any event, the time for argument is over. We move on to ensuring that the change, at a minimum, does not have a negative impact on the Public Interest.
In this case the Public Interest is fairly easy to define. The move to polymer notes must not be allowed to reduce either the number of £5 notes in circulation or the number of machines where £5 notes can be used.
To address the first point, ATMs are the main distribution channel for bank notes in the UK. Currently, out of the 70,000 ATMs in the country, only around 5200 offer £5 notes as a denomination option.
The UK's ATM operators have a commitment to the Bank of England that a minimum of 1.2% of the value of currency dispensed by ATMs will be in the form of £5 notes. To achieve and surpass this minimum, it is vital that at least 5200 machines continue to dispense "fivers". I am sure LINK, the UK ATM network, will be keeping a vigilant watch on this. The ATMIA will also be taking a keen interest.
By the way, anyone living in the UK is entitled to put in a request to LINK that an ATM near where they live or work should offer £5 notes. This is an extract from the LINK website:
"If you are a member of the public and would like to suggest a site for dispensing £5 notes please follow the link HERE."
This is an excellent service. I hope many members of the public use it, especially if they notice their local ATM is no longer dispensing £5 notes, following the introduction of the new polymer variety.
Of course, ATMs are not the only machines which are important to the public where £5 notes are concerned. There are tens of thousands of ticket, parking and merchandise vending machines which have until now allowed the public to use £5 notes as a payment option. If the Public Interest is to be safeguarded, it is absolutely vital that the number of machines accepting £5 notes does not diminish, following the introduction of polymer notes.
It would be excellent if everyone in the UK takes a keen interest in this. The first step should be raising the matter with the operator of a machine which no longer accepts fivers. Should that fail to get a satisfactory response, I am sure consumer protection organisations and the media will be very interested.
I will certainly be looking out for any particularly serious problems that arise and monitoring how they are resolved.
In any event, I hope that tomorrow goes well and that all the hard work of many people, including the team at the Bank of England, is rewarded by a smooth introduction of the new fivers.
Victoria Cleland, the Bank’s chief cashier, said the other day that she does not believe the end of cash is near.
“I can’t see cash disappearing certainly in my working lifetime,” she said. “There’s still a number of people who like using cash because it’s physical, it’s tangible, they know the transaction’s taken place, and you can always use it.”
The number of people who still like using cash is large. If polymer bank notes assist in ensuring those people - indeed, all of us - can continue to exercise the choice of using cash, their introduction is to be heartily applauded.
We shall see.