Can Bristol Pound bridge the Divide?

The Divide ScreeningThe post-film discussion with (left to right): me (Ruby Szarowicz), Cleo Lake (Green Party), Kat Wall (New Economy Organisers Network), Mary Rivers (the Equality Trust) and  Chris Sunderland (Bristol Pound).

Using local currencies isn’t going to defeat neoliberal capitalism, but it is a positive change anyone can make to support a fairer, more equal society.

Over 75 people packed into the Wardrobe theatre on Thursday night to watch The Divide, a film inspired by the critically-acclaimed book The Spirit Level. The film examines global inequality, following seven individuals in the USA and UK, where the top 0.1% earn as much as the bottom 90%. The crowning message of the film tells of a failed experiment: neoliberalism.

The film paints a bleak picture of the world we have created; a wall street psychologist misses his daughter’s bedtime and struggles into work the morning after back surgery, thinking only of the big house beyond the security wall. On our side of the pond, care worker Rochelle is also missing her children’s bedtime to make up enough hours on minimum wage to pay off £4000 of catalogue debt. This economic disparity has created dangerous social division, and the consequence is that neither side of the scale can truly be happy.

A panel joined us from the Green Party (Cleo Lake), the New Economy Organisers Network (Kat Wall), the Equality Trust (Mary Rivers) and Bristol Pound (Chris Sunderland) to discuss what meaningful changes we can make in our community to tackle inequality and make Bristol a fairer city. There are key small changes we can make which can lead to a big difference.

We ask people to choose independent businesses over corporate ones because we know that big corporate businesses can be really bad for communities; we know from the Panama Papers that these companies aren’t paying taxes on their profits, sending them to offshore tax havens and not contributing back to the social infrastructure they are benefiting from. The owners of these businesses often earn four or five hundred times more than the lowest person on their staff role. The work they create is often repetitive, low-skilled and often workers’ rights are diminished with zero hours’ contracts and minimum wage. These companies exacerbate inequality whilst giving us a false sense of choice as they monopolise whole industries.

By spending Bristol Pounds, you are passing on a pledge for an independent business to source their products locally, with less carbon footprint. Circulating money in our local economy prevents it from being lost to offshore tax havens; even the council are accepting it for council tax and business rates, which means more of our taxes are being spent in Bristol. Strong local economies can protect jobs, stimulate growth and make Bristol a fairer, more equal place to live.

So if you want to do one thing to fight inequality in Bristol, use the Bristol Pound!

Ruby Szarowicz is the membership manager at the Bristol Pound CIC and chaired the discussion at the screening of ‘the Divide’ on the 18 August 2016

The August system upgrade and how to reset your online account password and PIN

Like any piece of equipment, the Bristol Pound’s online system occasionally needs a bit of essential maintenance. The system is used by Bristol Credit Union to look after all the Bristol Pound personal and business accounts, and to manage payments.

On 9 August our technical teams upgraded the Bristol Pound system.

Following the upgrade your login password and text payment PIN number will need to be reset. This is a quick and simple process – and it’s described below.

Important changes
We’ll let you know all about the added features over the next few months – if you don’t discover them yourself first. In the meantime, we’ve updated our online guides to reflect the upgrades. Click the links to learn more:

How to log in to your account – now with automated ‘reset your password‘ link
Setting up regular payments – with brand new recurring payments function
Paying your council tax – you can now set up variable instalments to allow for that pesky higher payment in April!
Paying your business rates – now with much higher maximum payment

The Bristol Pound App
Sadly, there has been a slight (and temporary) casualty of the changeover: the Bristol Pound app has lost a bit of its functionality. You can no longer log in to the app, which means you can’t check your balance or make online payments. However, you can still use the app to:

  • locate businesses and cash points
  • find information on businesses
  • see special offers
  • make text payments

Withdrawing paper Bristol Pounds direct from your online account
When withdrawing paper notes from cash points you must now use the text command ‘exc’. So, assuming you want £B50, your PIN is 1234 and you’re at the Tobacco Factory you would write:

exc 1234 access6tobfac 50

Resetting your password

Go to www.bristolpound.org/login Click on the ‘Click here to reset your login password’ link in the bottom right hand corner Bristol Pound login page Enter your login name or the email address you used to sign up for the account.
resetscreen
You’ll receive an email with a link to reset your password. Make sure to check you junk or spam folders. Click on the link, which takes you to the reset password screen. Set your new password. Make it memorable and secure. Bristol Pound password reset Success! Now login using your new password and your username (if you’ve forgotten it, it’s in the email you just received). Next you need to reset your 4 digit security PIN.

Reset your PIN number

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be prompted to reset your PIN. Click on the ‘Click here to proceed’ button. Bristol Pound password reset Click on ‘Create’ next to PIN. Bristol Pound PIN reset Set your new four digit PIN. Bristol Pound PIN resetThat’s it – your new password and PIN have been set. Now you can explore the new online account system. Bristol Pound PIN reset This upgrade means we’re offering the most up to date and secure technology available. It will also bring some new features to make using the Bristol Pound even easier. If you’re having any trouble, call the Bristol Pound team on 0117 929 8642 or email the Bristol Credit Union team on bristolpound@bristolcreditunion.org.uk

Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt by Frances Coppola

Debt

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt

Frances Coppola hits the nail on the head in focusing on the impact of debt on our lives and how unnecessary it should be. He describes many ways to avoid the debt structured economy we have, which ends up dictating and impoverishing so many people. The solutions are out there for national governments through taxation and governments investing in its citizens’ education and general well-being, but in truth the evidence is that most governments in rich countries actively encourage the build up of personal debt.

David Graeber’s video on the relationship between government debt and private debt is a must see on this issue too. Debt, for millions of ordinary people, forces people in to work which they may not have chosen to otherwise do, and for much of their lives . When debt with interest is not a choice for most people who need a home and to get an education, I think it is immoral and probably makes for poor productivity too.

This piece is highly recommended reading, with one caveat – I think he misses the issue of interest on debt almost completely. The matter of interest changes fundamentally the nature of debt and is something that at Bristol Pound we hope to take head on in the near future through giving zero interest credit or loans to businesses that join our scheme.

Ciaran Mundy  – CEO Bristol Pound CIC

New for avid Bristol Pound users – the Bristol Pound User Group

User Group

Where: The Hub room, Roll for the Soul, Bristol, BS1 2JL
When: Wednesday 10 August 2016
Time: 19:30 – 20:30

The Bristol Pound is run by the people of Bristol, for the people of Bristol. Having our own currency offers us all the unique opportunity to take control of our money for the benefit of our city. In June, Bristol Pound users came together for the first Bristol Pound User Group: members attended a round table discussion about the successes and the challenges of using the local currency.

The group will now meet every two months, with members of the Bristol Pound team, to feed back on on-the-ground use of the currency, and offer ideas and support, giving the people of Bristol a firm grip on how our money works.

We would like to invite you to the second meeting of the Bristol Pound User Group.

Our User Group is open to everyone and is a way for us to gain better influence from our members. Join us on 10 August from 7:30 – 8:30 to discuss exciting service and software updates and talk about how we can subscribe more of our favourite independent businesses to the scheme.

The Users Group will be a space for collective leverage over our local currency, making the Bristol Pound more responsive to our users. It will also be a great place to network and meet other Bristol Pound users who share an interest in improving our local economy.
Light refreshments will be available and space is limited to 15 attendees. Priority will be given to group members who are already registered but newcomers are encouraged and welcomed.

If you’re an active Bristol Pound user and want to get more involved in the running of our money, please RSVP by email to Ruby at ruby@bristolpound.org. You could also send us agenda suggestions for the group to discuss!