Saved for the nation: the £50 note gets a reprieve, and completes the polymer cash puzzle

15 October 2018

Spenders with a predilection for £50 notes will be pleased to hear that the banknote has been given a stay of execution by the Treasury.

The highest-denomination note in England and Wales was earmarked for discontinuation by the Chancellor in his Spring Statement, with the announcement of a consultation into its uses.

But after consultation the note has been given a reprieve, as the Treasury and Bank of England have announced their intentions to create a polymer £50 note, in line with measures to modernise British currency.

It will join the £5, £10 and £20 notes as the final piece of the polymer cash puzzle. The £5 and £10 are already in circulation, with the £20 set to join them in 2020 with a portrait of the artist JMW Turner. 

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, says: “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’re making sure that cash is here to stay.”

Sarah John, the Bank of England’s chief cashier, adds: “I’m 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.”

However, fears continue that 1p and 2p coins could still be removed from circulation, as in August Bank of England economists said removing coppers from circulation would have no impact on inflation.

No historical figure has yet been announced for the new £50 note design. The Bank of England says it will announce a selection process for nominees "in due course". 

A concept image of the new £20 note. Nothing has been unveiled as-of-yet for the £50 note. 

Removing £50 notes from circulation won’t cure money laundering

But the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) says that a backlash during the £50 note consultation is the reason behind the new polymer note announcement.

The consultation document from the Treasury states: “There is a perception among some that £50 notes are used for money laundering, hidden economy activity, and tax evasion," and that “…the £50 note is believed to be rarely used for routine purchases.”

The AAT says it refuted this suggestion and that “that the Treasury view did not correspond to the experiences of taxi drivers, antique dealers and many others who frequently receive payments which include £50 notes.”

According to the AAT some £3bn is spent by overseas visitors to the UK each month, and many use the £50 note as a more convenient way to visit with larger quantities of cash.

Phil Hall, AAT head of public affairs & public policy, also questioned Treasury arguments about money laundering: “The AAT is always supportive of measures that genuinely reduce incidences of money laundering.

“However, there is little hard evidence to suggest removing the £50 note from circulation would achieve this. If money launderers are using £50 notes, their removal will simply dictate that they use £20 notes – it doesn’t deal with the problem at all.”


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Isn’t the £100 note still issued in Scotland? Wouldn’t this be the highest denomination note in the U.K?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

i think the new £50 note should have BREXIT founder CAMERON on it.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I used to collect £50 notes until a few years back when the ones I had went out of circulation, I had to get £130K changed to £20 notes, now they are going I am in process of changing to £10 notes before 2020. I would like to see a new £50 note with a long circulation life (£100 note would be even better), the large notes are much easier to count and take up less room in safes, I don't trust the modern banking system.

In reply to by Neil (not verified)

Hi Neil, you are correct, my apologies. I've updated the piece to make it clear it's just England and Wales.


Moneywise Edmund

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The fact is, the £50 note is now more like the £20 note 15-20 years ago, due to inflation. In London, it'll just about pay for a medium sized round of drinks, or a low-reasonable meal and drinks for two. It is now a reasonable-sized currency. In markets, festivals, etc, one probably isn't even enough for a day. So it is now entering its heyday, removing it would've been a backward step, and would probably need re-introduced within 10 years.

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