In January 2012 the UK Royal Mint is to introduce new 5p and 10 coins. The news coins will be heavier. In many ways they will resemble the old coins, except they will be a little thicker and heavier.
11% thicker in fact.
Made of steel it could be that these new coins will be harder to be counterfeited. That said these small denomination coins in the UK are virtually worthless these days. It is doubtful counterfeiters would bother with 5 and 10 pence coins These new coins though will cost the Treasury £8million-a-year less to make. Oh goodie I hear you say.
The problem is however, that they will not fit into existing machines which take these coins, for instance into parking meters. Goodie again I hear vehicle owners say, but it is not that simple. It never is.
Local councils are expected to foot the bill of upgrading Car Parking Meters. They however maintain that the Treasury should foot the bill. After all their plan will save the Treasury more than enough money to stump up the cash. Of course the Treasury is loath to comment or offer to foot the bill.
Local councils have already had their budgets stretched, due to central government funding cuts. In order to pay for new Parking Meters something will have to give. As councils have also pointed out, there is no guarantee that after new meters are installed the Treasury will not change other coins. Many believe in fact that they will change the £1 coins next.
This all may sound like a typical British storm in a teacup but plenty of taxpayer money is involved. The Mirror has reported that, "Estimates suggest the Treasury will save £176 million by using the cheaper metal".
If they do not offer money to help councils implement the changes you have top wonder just where that pot of money will go. The total bill to all councils could be £5.5 million.
Opinion: Whilst it does seem prudent to change to a low cost production coinage in the UK it does seem unfair to expect struggling councils to pick up the bill. It will be doubly hard if a couple of years down the road other coins follow suit.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog