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Copper coins could be scrapped as Hammond launches review

Iain Withers
Philip Hammond launched the consultation into cash alongside his Spring Statement - Getty Images

The days of copper coins could be numbered after Chancellor Philip Hammond launched a review of cash in the British economy.

A sharp decline in the use of small value coins and a surge in contactless card and phone payments has prompted the rethink.

Mr Hammond launched the consultation into cash alongside his Spring Statement. Six in 10 copper coins are used in just one transaction and never again, either because they are saved or thrown away, according to the Treasury.

The UK’s largest note – the £50 – could also be in jeopardy after bureaucrats said it was “rarely used for routine purchases”.

It is instead usually stored for its value, with the most “significant” demand from overseas. The large red note also suffers from “a perception [that] £50 notes are used for money laundering, hidden economy activity and tax evasion”, the Treasury said.

Spring statement: the key points explained

The Government has pledged to help more businesses use cashless payments and ensure those who still need to pay with cash can do so.

Coppers are saved by many and binned in 8pc of cases. The Royal Mint has to produce and issue more than 500 million 1p and 2p coins a year to replace those falling out of circulation, even though they cost as much to make as higher value coins.

Some retailers and vending machine operators have already started phasing out transactions that require copper coins in change, according to the ­Treasury.

Mr Hammond’s predecessor, George Osborne, wanted to ditch copper coins but was vetoed by Number 10, his former special adviser Rupert Harrison said on Twitter yesterday.