Bristol channels money back into community

Bristol has become the latest city to launch its own currency and already has more than 100 businesses signed up to use the money – more than in any other local currency scheme

Notes designed by locals in denominations of £1, £5, £10 and £20, as well as electronic pounds, will be launched at the end of May by a group of independent traders, with the backing of the council.

Unlike the local currency in Totnes, which was the first to launch in 2006, as well as those in Brixton and Stroud, in Bristol the money can be used to pay local business taxes, which is expected to encourage more businesses to accept the currency.

Companies signed up include a family bakery, the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol Ferry Boat Company, numerous small cafes and Thatcher’s Cider.

Ciaran Mundy, director of the Bristol Pound, told the BBC: “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.”

The idea is that when the money is spent in a shop in Bristol, it will then have to be spent locally by the business or used to pay staff and taxes, and therefore keeps circulating in the local economy.

“We’ll be driving more business to independent traders, and ensuring the diversity of our city, which is one of the things people love about Bristol,” Mundy added.

To obtain the currencies, people will need to set up an account with Bristol Credit Union – a financial cooperative – and for every pound sterling they deposit, they will be credited one Bristol pound. They can exchange the pounds for sterling at any point.

Credit unions have FSA backing, so accounts will have the same protection as any other deposit account. The standard government scheme guarantees up to £85,000 per person.