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U.K. to get plastic pound notes

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The Bank of England showed samples of polymer pound notes Wednesday.

DYLAN MARTINEZ / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

The Bank of England showed samples of polymer pound notes Wednesday.

LONDON -- Britain will start printing banknotes on plastic instead of cotton paper in 2016, given "overwhelmingly supportive" public backing for the switch, the Bank of England said Wednesday.

The change will start with the five-pound note, featuring Winston Churchill, followed about a year later with a 10-pound note featuring Jane Austen. Nearly 13,000 individuals gave feedback during a consultation, with 87 per cent in favour of the switch, six per cent opposed and seven per cent neutral.

About 20 countries, including Canada, already use polymer for their currency, and the BOE said the new notes are more secure, longer-lasting and cheaper to produce. It also announced new procedures for selecting historical characters to appear on the currency after criticism that the selection of Churchill for the fiver meant no woman would be represented on any of the U.K.'s notes.

"Our polymer notes will combine the best of progress and tradition," governor Mark Carney said at a press conference announcing the change. "They will be more secure from counterfeiting and more resistant to damage, while celebrating the history and tradition that is important both to the bank and the nation as a whole."

The BOE has been researching materials for three years and said the benefits of polymer include resistance to dirt and the ability to include "windows," or clear portions, that make counterfeiting more difficult.

The bank's announcements Wednesday follow protests this year after Carney's predecessor, Mervyn King, said Churchill would replace prison reformer Elizabeth Fry.

The BOE responded by subsequently announcing Austen would appear on the next tenner.

 

-- Bloomberg News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2013 B6

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