The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, had announced that the Treasury would look into whether 1p and 2p coins were still needed in an era of digital payment.
In fact, well over half of copper coins are used only once before finding their way into the coin jar – or even in the bin.
But now the Prime Minister appears to have helped the Treasury come to its conclusion after a baffling one day of investigation, assuring the public that their small change is safe.
A great shame
The proposal prompted a backlash, including from charities concerned that donations could dry up if people had less low-denomination change in their pockets.
“A lot of charities live for those pennies,” said Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
Caroline Lucas, the Green co-leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “I do think it would be a great shame to lose our 2p machines on the pier – and wonder if the government hasn’t just found another way to ruin peoples’ fun.”
However, a number of analysts yesterday saw the move towards a copperless purse inevitable.
“When it costs more to produce and distribute a coin than the coin itself is worth, governments tend to decide it’s a spent force – and we’re rapidly heading in that direction for coppers,”
Sarah Coles at Hargreaves Lansdown told the Guardian.An increasing number of countries have scrapped their smallest denominations as inflation renders them less useful.
Australia, Israel, Sweden, Russia and Switzerland have all dumped coins, while even countries that use the euro – such as Ireland and Belgium – have introduced rounding so people don’t get 1c and 2c in their change.
The Treasury consultation did not actually propose taking any coins out of circulation, but it could have led to that conclusion in theory – or some other solution to reduce the number sitting unused.
A version of this story originally appeared on our sister site inews.co.uk