Mayor of Bristol supports his city by taking salary in local currency

Just days into the job, new mayor George Ferguson requests that he is paid in Bristol Pounds

The mayor of Bristol has boosted a scheme supporting independent traders by opting to take his salary in the city’s local currency.

Mayor George Ferguson, whose pledge to make Bristol “happier, healthier and more sustainable” formed the cornerstone of his election campaign, announced his decision to be paid in Bristol Pounds just days into the job.

The local currency was launched in September last year and is designed to support Bristol’s independent businesses, strengthen its economy and keep the city’s high streets diverse and distinctive. A not-for-profit social enterprise run between the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union, the Bristol Pound is the UK’s first city-wide local currency.

Ferguson said he was determined to do all he could to support the currency’s development: “I am a very strong advocate for our independent traders and businesses and as mayor, am committed to helping them flourish and grow. A strong independent retail sector is good for the local supply chain, helps boost new business growth and boosts the city’s economy.”

Bristol Pounds are purchased with sterling and can be spent with any of the more than 500 businesses that have signed up. The scheme operates online banking and a text message payment system, and traders are even able to buy supplies in the currency, helping to create a “virtuous economic cycle,” says Bristol Pound director Chris Sunderland.

“Of all the money spent in a city, most of it leaves the city almost as soon as it’s spent. It goes up to the financial institutions and gets lost. What people can be sure of with Bristol Pounds is that they’re circulating in the city and that’s where they’ll stay,” he said.

Fellow director Ciaran Mundy told Positive News that the scheme “almost always” prompts a positive reaction.

“Some people have a lot of questions about it, which is understandable because it is about money. But even if they don’t fully get the economics behind it, they know intuitively that it is a good thing to be doing for Bristol. It is a great way of discovering local, independent businesses and connecting with local traders too. It keeps chain stores out which cuts down on the cost of transporting goods, and creates more choice for people in the longer term.”