Posted 18/12/2012

Bristol Pound 3 months in: Good Money for a Great city

Three months after launch and the Bristol Pound is already starting to have a very real impact with almost £B100,000 in circulation to date.

Ciaran Mundy, a director of the Bristol Pound community interest company, says "People are meeting and talking about the £B as a way to support each other in harder economic times. The Bristol Pound helps spread the idea of how great it can feel to live in such a diverse city where people act together for positive change. As more people open accounts and start spending Bristol Pounds using TXT2PAY sms payments, people, communities and businesses across the city will feel the collective benefits."

Kate Hawkings, who owns the Arnolfini cafe, says "One of the best stories is the Severn Project which grows beautiful salads and herbs in Keynsham while supporting and employing people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. They are part of the Bristol Pound's Farm Link Initiative. When Steve delivers his produce to our kitchen, we pay him directly in Bristol Pounds - it's a very satisfying way of doing business!". This is just one example of how the Bristol Pound is helping independent businesses in Bristol to link up. Bristol Pounds are facilitating the creation of a robust community of independent traders.

Mark Burton, of the University of Bristol, and Bristol Pound Technical Delivery Director says "The numbers so far are compelling: with £B100,000 in circulation we can estimate some of the likely benefits. based on Europe's largest similar local currency scheme, Germany's Cheimgauer."

Using an estimated re-spend rate of 10 x per year, based on the Chiemgauer experience and double that of the Euro or Sterling, means £B would be hitting a one million turnover in it's first year. This could add £500K directly to the independent sector. But this is just a beginning, as the plan is to double the amount of £B in circulation within a year of launch. The size of the economic cake is shrinking across Europe, but using Bristol Pounds can help sustain quality of life in Bristol by supporting independent locally based businesses to thrive.

Even more exciting are early reports from traders. Around 80% of respondents to a Lancaster University business survey said they intend to re-spend £B they receive back into the local economy. This is known as the 'local multiplier' effect, and it helps prevent the loss of wealth from the region that can occur when spending with bigger nationals and multinational chains. Bristol Pounds are taxable like sterling but cannot be hidden in offshore accounts or other tax avoidance schemes big companies often use.

Other key statistics at the start of December: over 500 traders now use the £B, and the Bristol Pound CIC estimates that thousands of individuals are spending the paper pounds. Around 200 businesses are already able to handle Bristol Pound text payments via TXT2PAY and make online payments to each other, or pay business rates to the council. There are over 475 individuals with active online accounts benefiting from the 5% bonus they receive on money they pay into their accounts. Over £25k has been spent online or via TXT2PAY. The average value of a TXT2PAY transaction is around £B13.00 and the number of people using it is growing every week.

The Bristol Pound TXT2PAY service has outperformed expectations. Payments typically take just a few seconds and it is much easier to use than card machines in many environments. Lucy Wheeler from Beast Clothing said “The customers are enjoying using the text payment system because it’s a bit different and it’s easy to do. We’ve had more and more customers doing it, it’s catching on, especially over the busy Christmas period”.

In the first 6 weeks since launch, thousands of pounds worth of commemorative notes have been sold to people all around the country and overseas and the scale of interest through mainstream and social media has been staggering.  Millions of people across the UK, Europe, USA and China have been reading about Bristol Pounds in print and online, watching on TV, listening to the story on the radio, commenting on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere. This has put a focus on Bristol as a European hotspot for social and economic innovation in the face of global financial and environmental challenges. When the Queen came to visit Bristol in November, the first time in her official capacity for many years, the gift from the city was a set of the paper pounds, presented by Mayor George Ferguson, in a leather wallet crafted right here in Bristol by Bristol Pound trader Hrothgar Stibbon .

Other news: George Ferguson, Bristol's independent Mayor will be receiving all of his Mayoral salary in Bristol Pounds.

The Bristol Pound are now holding regular sign-up sessions, for individuals to open accounts in person, every Wednesday lunchtime, 12.30-2.30pm at the entrance to the Corn Exchange. People can also still open an account online at www.bristolpound.org/signup

To open an account online go to www.bristolpound.org/signup, alternatively email the Bristol Pound team at info@bristolpound.org or call 0117 929 8642.