Good news for the 19th-century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. Hers is the face on the £5 note, and yesterday's announcement by the Bank of England that there is to be an injection of "quality" fivers in ATMs will restore some dignity to a lady who, more often than not in recent years, has looked a little bedraggled.
The gradual disappearance of the £5 note has been a nuisance, and vaguely troubling. Does its scarcity encourage us to spend more money? Money we probably haven't got? It's not difficult to suspect that dark forces are at work, and as long ago as 2007, the Governor of the Bank of England himself used a Mansion House speech to point out that there was an "ample supply" of new £5 notes waiting to be used. The problem, suggested Mervyn King, was that the country's commercial banks were shunning them for cost reasons.
Now that problem has been addressed. The 10 largest cash-machine operators have committed to increase the frequency of £5 notes in place of higher-denomination notes. No more buying something for 70p, having nothing smaller than a tenner in your pocket, and then lugging around a pile of loose change.
Society's increasing cashlessness may be the very reason why our notes and coins still matter to us so much. Welcome back, the fiver, and welcome back, Mrs Fry. We need you.Reuse content