Plastic pounds? Bank of England seeks views on ditching paper notes
LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The Bank of England is moving closer to ditching paper pounds and switching to plastic banknotes instead.
It would follow in the footsteps of Australia, Canada and others.
The central bank said on Tuesday it would ask the public its opinion before taking a decision in December on whether to adopt polymer pounds which also would be smaller than current notes.
Governor Mark Carney introduced polymer banknotes while head of the Bank of Canada in 2011 and credited the material for a sharp drop in the rate of counterfeiting.
The BoE has issued paper banknotes ever since the central bank was created in 1694 as a way of raising money for King William III's war against France. The first fully printed notes appeared in 1853. Before that notes were handwritten and signed by one of the bank's cashiers.
Polymer banknotes, as well as being hard to fake, are durable and stay cleaner for longer because the material is more resistant to dirt and moisture, the BoE said, adding feedback so far on the new-look notes had been positive.
Any British polymer notes would carry the same designs and be tiered in size like current notes. But they would be smaller to allow larger denominations to fit more easily into purses and wallets, it said.
Polymer banknotes would be introduced one denomination at a time, beginning with the new five pound note featuring Winston Churchill in 2016.
"The Bank of England would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes," said Charles Bean, BoE deputy governor.
More than 20 countries currently issue polymer banknotes, including Australia, which introduced them in 1988, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and New Zealand.