SUBHEAD: The Transition Town of Bristol introduces new currency and new era for local money.
By Josh Ryan-Collins on 19 September 2012 for New Economics - (http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/2012/09/19/bristol-pound-marks-new-era-for-local-money)
Image above: One of several variations of design of Bristol Pound notes. From (https://twitter.com/i/#!/BristolPound/media/slideshow).
Today’s launch of the Bristol Pound (£B)
represents a step change for the UK local currency movement, one which New Economics Foundation is very proud to have supported as
part of our Community
Currency 2.0 project.
The new currency is particularly notable
for three reasons.
Firstly, scale. The Bristol Pound is the first city-wide
scheme in the UK – indeed, any primary producer within a 50 mile radius of
Bristol will be permitted to participate in the scheme. Bristol Pound has the potential to become a
genuine ‘city-region’ currency – joining up farmers in Devon or locally based energy cooperatives with
a city of over 1 million residents and thousands of small businesses (350 have
signed up already). Ecological
economist Jane Jacob’s dream of flowering City-region currency schemes
fluctuating against each other in natural cycles of growth and import
substitution is perhaps a step closer.
Secondly, ethical finance. The Bristol
Pound is the first UK scheme to partner with any kind of deposit-taking
financial institution - the Bristol
Credit Union. Many previous local
currencies have struggled with administration, security and funding. Having the
credit union administering the scheme will addresses these challenges. It also
opens up the scheme to a more diverse range of people than previous currency
projects. Every existing member of Bristol Credit Union (BCU), including many
people who struggle to access finance from high street banks or receive benefits,
will automatically be offered membership of The Bristol Pound. The project is a great marketing vehicle for BCU,
helping it compete with larger banks for retail customers and encouraging more
small businesses to hold accounts and get loans. Meanwhile, customers buying
Bristol Pounds will know they are not only supporting local businesses but also
helping their neighbours get access to finance at ethical rates of interest.
Thirdly, council participation. Bristol Council is following in the
footsteps of Lambeth Council (for the Brixton
Pound), and a number of other local currency projects across the world, by
enabling participating businesses to use their Bristol pound balances to pay local
taxes - in this case, their business rates. This massively reduces the barrier
to entry for small businesses that may be concerned they will not be able to
find ways of re-spending the currency. If Bristol Council can also find ways of re-spending Bristol Pounds –
perhaps through paying staff or procurement – they can act as an effective
clearing house for the currency and accelerate more regional production and
Here at nef we’ll
continue to support the Bristol Pound as part of our to upscale and
professionalise local currencies at both UK and European level; the latter
through our EU-funded Community
Currencies in Action project, of which there will be more news soon. And big congratulations to all the team down
in Bristol, who have been working away for the last three years ahead of this