Bank's secret £20bn store for New Year spree spending spree

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The Independent Online

Ben White and Elizabeth McGrath

Ben White and Elizabeth McGrath

18 December 1999

Billions of pounds will change hands as the UK spends its way into the new Millennium. Celebrating has proved to be such an expensive business that the Bank of England has prepared to double the amount of currency in circulation.

As much as £25bn is usually floating around the economy in notes and coins but the Bank is concerned that demand for cash will be so high during this year's extended holiday period that an extra amount between £5bn and £25bn will be needed. Twenty billion in notes is now stored in secret locations around the country.

There will be plenty of opportunity for revellers to spend the cash. Imports of champagne are up 47 per cent this year as shops and wholesalers have brought more than 21 million bottles of bubbly into the country. Beer drinkers will consume at least 28 million pints on New Year's Eve.

Club promoters are also hoping to get their hands on some of the millennium cash. The "superclubs" alone will provide places for more than 75,000 dance music fans paying up to £110 each to hear disc jockeys like Radio 1's Pete Tong, who will reputedly earn £300,000 on the night.

The nation's show-piece, the Millennium Dome, is a £758m project. But it is not just in the capital that cities are splashing out on some of the biggest civic parties in history.

Newcastle has spent £840,000 on its party; Glasgow £750,000; and Cardiff £700,000. Five million pounds of lottery money will help fund the country-wide celebrations as towns and cities across the UK compete with each other to provide the most spectacular and innovative ways of marking the start of the new millennium.

The country's largest party will be in London, where musicians chosen to reflect the city's ethnic diversity will entertain crowds until 2am on new year's day. They will pause only for an explosion of fire to light up a two and half mile stretch of the Thames quickly followed by the largest fireworks display ever in the UK.

The capital's celebrations have been partly funded by a £1.8m grant from the lottery millennium commission. London is one of 22 cities that have received funds. Other cities have received grants of between £40,000 in Norwich and £600,000 in Belfast. But what towns and cities outside the capital lack in funds they have made up for in imagination.

Glasgow has placed the focus on art, involving local artists in the beginning of a 100ft design which will be faxed around the world and added to in each country. It will eventually return to Glasgow, birthplace of Alexander Bain, the inventor of the fax machine.

Cardiff will host the Millennium Bug Ball where 25ft tall mechanical creatures will dance beneath a sky filled with light from an illumination and fire show.

In Newcastle a parade of giant caricatures of Geordie characters will be accompanied by 150 drummers. Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral will host an all night vigil while an estimated 35,000 people enjoy a tented street party.

The most unusual celebration will probably be in Allendale, Northumberland, where villagers will walk the high street with burning barrels of tar on their heads.