While the economic turmoil wrought by the coronavirus pandemic has left some people in Britain counting every penny, the country’s central bank is apparently having trouble keeping track of billions of pounds.
A parliamentary report released on Friday said that £50 billion (about $67 billion) of paper money is “missing” from the country’s cash supply and that the Bank of England “seems to lack curiosity” about where it’s all gone.
Of the more than £70 billion worth of bills in circulation in Britain, the report found that only about a quarter was being spent in stores and on other purchases. That leaves the majority of those bills — which by design are not traceable — unaccounted for.
The £50 billion in cash may be hidden away in unreported household savings, squirreled away for a rainy day, or is being used for more nefarious purposes, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said in the report, calling on the Bank of England to investigate.
“£50 billion of sterling notes — or about three-quarters of this precious and dwindling supply — is stashed somewhere, but the Bank of England doesn’t know where, who by or what for — and doesn’t seem very curious,” said Meg Hillier, the lawmaker for the Hackney South and Shoreditch areas of London and chair of the committee that produced the report.
The Bank of England hit back at the suggestion it was taking a laissez-faire approach to the issue.
“It is the responsibility of the Bank of England to meet public demand for bank notes. The bank has always met that demand and will continue to do so,” a spokeswoman from the central bank said in a statement on Friday. “Members of the public do not have to explain to the bank why they wish to hold bank notes. This means that bank notes are not missing,” it said.
New York Times News Service