Whether consultations were carried out for the design of the £5 polymer banknote

We publish details of a selection of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and the information we disclose in response.

Subject/Request Details: Whether consultations were carried out for the design of the £5 polymer banknote with groups such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People (‘RNIB’); and whether there will be future consultations for the new £10 and £50 banknotes.

Date released: 2 November 2016


The Bank of England (the ‘Bank’) has consulted and engaged with the vision impaired community through the representations of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (‘RNIB’) on a number of occasions regarding the design and issue of new £5 polymer note. The table below shows the key discussions which were supported by an ongoing dialogue. The Bank also conducted a large public consultation exercise in 2013 where the general public were encouraged to provide their views on a potential move to polymer banknotes. The Bank has also approached organisations such as the Royal London Society for Blind People regarding raising awareness of new banknote features and issuances.





 2012 Bank commissions study from RNIB regarding polymer banknotes In 2012 the Bank commissioned the RNIB to undertake a study by blind and partially sighted people to gain their views on handling paper and polymer banknotes. The participants comprised 28 people aged between 30 and 92. There was a roughly 50:50 split in the preference for paper or polymer. The majority felt that they could get used to using polymer and appreciated its durability. The different feel of polymer notes would be useful during the transition period when new and old series notes would be in circulation.
 June 2014 Consulting on design and features of the new £5 note The Bank met with the RNIB in summer 2014 to seek feedback on the new £5 design and tactility. The RNIB remarked how different polymer felt and that the note would be clearly distinguishable. The RNIB and Bank agreed to continue to work together to ensure suitable awareness around the new £5 and new features.
 Autumn 2015 - early 2016 Exploring use of tactile features on future notes  The Bank worked with the RNIB to undertake a series of focus groups with their members (58 people participated) at the end of 2015 to ascertain;

(a) whether RNIB members would use a tactile feature over and above the existing design characteristic (size, colour, large numerals) to differentiate future banknote denominations after the £5, and if so;
(b) which of six tactile feature designs would be most effective in denominating banknotes.
The findings of this study informed the Bank’s decision, announced in June 2016, that the new £10 and new £20 banknotes will include a tactile feature created by a series of raised dots.
 Spring 2016 Consulting on engaging the sight loss community regarding the issue of the new £5 The Bank met with the RNIB in early 2016 to discuss a communications strategy for the sight loss community regarding the new features on the polymer £5 note.  A strategy was put together including paid advertising across a number of channels owned by the RNIB (web, social, radio, print) as well as earned media on broadcast. 


Turning to the second part of your request, as described above, the Bank has already consulted and engaged with the vision impaired community regarding planned future note design. We have announced, following work with the RNIB, that the new £10 note (to be issued summer 2017) and new £20 note (issued by the year 2020) will both include a tactile feature to help the sight loss community identify these banknotes. We have not yet decided the substrate or timeline for the new £50 note.

We have already started sharing information about the tactile feature with the vision impaired community which has included the Chief Cashier speaking on the ‘In Touch’ programme and the Bank attending a Sight Village event. We also know from dialogue with the RNIB that vision impaired people use a range of methods to denominate banknotes. As such, the new tactile feature will be included in addition to the existing features which aid denomination. These include:

- Tiered sizing, whereby the size of banknotes increase by their respective value, e.g. £5 is the smallest, then £10, £20 and finally £50 is the largest.
- Colour, whereby banknotes are clearly different in colour to aid denomination
- Clear numerals, whereby any numeric markings (e.g. ‘£5’) can be clearly seen and are a suitable size.
The Bank will continue to engage with the vision impaired community through relevant and representative organisations regarding the awareness of these features and future banknote issuances.

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