Bank of England blames decline of cash as it shuts Leeds office

Saleha Riaz
·2 min read
Photo: Leeds List
The cash distribution centre in Leeds. Photo: Leeds List

The Bank of England (BOE) has blamed the decline of cash for its decision to close its distribution centre in Leeds, a move that will put 34 jobs at risk.

The Bank of England on Thursday announced plans to close the cash distribution centre in 2023. The central bank has begun consultations with Unite the Union on jobs losses. 

The decision was blamed on new longer lasting polymer bank and a general fall in the use of cash.

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“Following the successful transition to polymer banknotes, the Bank expects demand for distribution of new banknotes to fall in light of their greater durability, together with the continuing trend towards lower transactional usage of cash,” the Bank said in a statement.

“After careful analysis, the Bank has concluded that future distribution needs can be met from its Debden cash centre and existing storage facilities, without replacing the Leeds cash centre when the lease on the current property expires."

The lease on the Bank’s cash centre premises expires in July 2023. The central bank "remains committed to meeting the demand for banknotes in all parts of the United Kingdom."

The announcements come as the BOE and the UK Treasury explore a potential national digital currency — dubbed 'Britcoin' — amid a groundswell of interest in digital markets.

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The BoE used to have branches around the country that distributed cash and it has had a presence in Leeds since 1827. In 1997, branches were replaced with 12 regional agencies and the Leeds office become a cash centre to distribute banknotes.

Despite redundancies at the Leeds office, the Bank said it would "significantly increase its staff presence across the UK."

The Bank said it was committed to the north and announced plans for a new northern hub, which could end up being in Leeds. The institution will also maintain its regional agency for Yorkshire and the Humber in Leeds.

“I made a commitment at my pre-appointment hearing before the Treasury Select Committee in March last year to look at how we can expand our staff presence across the UK beyond our existing Agency network," governor Andrew Bailey said.

“Working through a year of COVID has shown that we can function well virtually and, as the country begins to open up again, it is more important than ever to think about what our future working arrangements look like."

Chief operating office Jo Place will lead a review of the Bank's geographical footprint, looking at aspects such as the number of staff, recruitment models, and the timescales for delivery. The review will also take into account the experiences of remote working throughout the pandemic.

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