Bold move for next Bank Governor: plastic cash

Mark Carney

Mark Carney, the next Governor of the Bank of England, has said he may be the man to bring plastic cash to the UK. He has already done the same in Canada where he is currently Governor.

So what will plastic money do for the UK, and what does this tell us about Carney?


Plastic money

On CTV television in Canada yesterday, he said he was looking at options for the UK, and that introducing plastic notes was one of the options.

Plastic money is not quite as dramatically different as it sounds. It means adding polymer to the notes, which helps them last longer.

Currently notes are made from cotton fibre and linen rag. This lasts longer than paper, but still the average life expectancy of a £5 note is just nine months - although something bigger like the £50 can last as long as four years.

The idea is that the polymer would make them last longer. They would be less prone to tearing, and would survive a trip in the washing machine.

What does it mean?

The move wasn't universally loved in Canada. Last summer there were claims that some of it was melting in the heat. However, it is used around the world, and these sorts of notes have been in circulation for more than 20 years in Australia, with no reported problems.

In itself, this is no dramatic departure for Carney, but it gives us a flavour of the kind of approach we can expect. Last month he described his UK role on Canadian TV as: "To be a bit of an outsider, to help with the reform, the re-founding, of the Bank of England, to think with the colleagues at the Bank and more broadly in the UK and Europe about policy options to really get those economies going and fix those financial systems."


Obviously plastic money is going to fix very little, but he's telling us that he's a reformer. He's going to shake things up, do things differently, and could bring about real change in the cosy world of UK banking.

When speaking to MPs earlier this month he showed some hesitation about further quantitative easing - and spoke about the long-term risks of printing more money. He has also shown some enthusiasm for adding a growth target to the existing inflation one. He has indicated that everything is up for discussion.

But what do you think? Is this a promising sign? Can the man credited with keeping Canada on track work miracles for the UK? Or does it feel like he's getting sidetracked with gimmicks like plastic money? Let us know in the comments.

The five worst financial crises of our time
See Gallery
Bold move for next Bank Governor: plastic cash

More stories
Read Full Story