More than £50 billion in notes is “missing” or “stashed away”, reports a Government committee.
The Public Accounts Committee said the Bank of England needs to “get a better handle on the national currency it controls”.
The committee said there are implications for everyone if no one knows what the money is being used for.
The Bank estimates 20% to 24% of issued notes are used in cash transactions.
It believes the missing £50 billion is used in overseas deals, held in savings, or used in a shadow economy.
It said: “The Bank of England does not appear to have a convincing reason for why the demand for notes keeps increasing – or any real understanding of where around £50bn of issued sterling notes are.”
Other major currencies are also reporting vast sums “lost”
However, the committee acknowledged that it is a trend being seen with other major currencies.
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said:
“In many areas where you can use cash you’d be hard pressed to find it, at least without paying an ATM fee that may be a substantial percentage of a small withdrawal – yet making frequent, small withdrawals can be a key budgeting tool for those on low incomes, and least able to afford those fees.
“Conversely, £50bn 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.”