Independent traders in Bristol have announced the launch of a new local currency. How will the £B work and what does it mean for the city?
A partnership between the Bristol Credit Union and the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company (CIC) will create a new UK currency in May 2012. The Bristol Pound, or £B, will give residents and workers the chance to directly influence their local economy by keeping more money in the area. This could benefit local businesses and independent traders.
The £B will have the same value as sterling but will use special notes. Payments will also be set up to work with texts and, in some cases, online shopping. Consumers and businesses will need to open accounts with the Bristol Credit Union to manage their money. The theory here is that a shopper that pays in £B will set off a domino effect. Businesses can then use their Bristol Pounds to pay their own local suppliers and money will be circulated and used more effectively within the community's economy.
In an interview with the BBC, the program's director, Ciaran Mundy, explained that: "Big companies just hoover up money from a local area. Money goes into their financial system and typically out into London and into the offshore sector."
This isn't the first local currency for the UK. The £B will be modelled on the Brixton Pound; other schemes have been established (with varying degrees of success) in Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and Calderdale.
The Bristol initiative is, however, the first to have the backing of a fully regulated financial services company. According to the £B website, this gives customers who open an account with the credit union a useful security of deposit guarantee.
Businesses will also be able to make online payments to other traders and the local council has agreed to accept business rates payments in the currency. According to the International Business Times, this is, again, a first.
Notes will be printed in four denominations (1, 5, 10 and 20). The organisation is currently holding a competition for local residents/workers to submit designs for the banknotes.