Bristol pound

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Bristol pound
Specimen Bristol Pound.jpg
£B5 and £B10 banknotes
PluralBristol pounds
Symbol £B
Freq. used£B1, £B5, £B10, £B20
User(s) Bristol
Central bank Bristol Credit Union
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Bristol pound (£B) was a form of local, complementary, and/or community currency launched in Bristol, UK on 19 September 2012. [1] Its objective is to encourage people to spend their money with local, independent businesses in Bristol, and for those businesses to in turn localise their own supply chains. [2] At the point of the close of the digital scheme in August 2020, it was the largest alternative in the UK to official sterling currency, and is backed by sterling.


The digital currency ceased operating in August 2020 and Bristol pound accounts have reverted to sterling accounts at the Bristol Credit Union. The Bristol Pound CIC is now in the process of developing Bristol Pay, which seeks to both offer an e-money peer to peer payment platform that can generate income for charitable projects in the city, and to create a range of token systems to encourage a culture change in how people think about economic value in relation to social capital and environmental capital. [3] [4] The final issue of the paper currency remains in date until 30 September 2021,[ needs update ] but given that many businesses are trying to reduce the risk of fomite transmission of COVID-19, the paper currency is no longer being issued. Souvenir notes are still available through the Bristol pound website.


The Bristol pound is a local, complementary, and/or community currency that was created to "improve Bristol's local economy". [5] Its primary aim is to support independent traders in order to maintain diversity in business around the city. The scheme was a joint not-for-profit enterprise between Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union. [6]

Previous to the Bristol pound, local currencies were launched in the UK in Totnes (2006), [7] Lewes (2008), Brixton (2009) [8] and Stroud (2010).

Effect on the local economy


Bristol pound logo Bristol Pound.svg
Bristol pound logo

According to a 2002 New Economics Foundation publication, money that is re-spent locally is '... the same as attracting new money into that area.' If a person spends a pound at a local shop, the owner of this shop can re-spend it by buying supplies from another local business, or paying local taxes (Business Rates or Council Tax) to the council. The process can be repeated with exchanges kept within the local economy. This local circulation can lead to additional economic benefits for the area; this is called the local multiplier effect. [9] In comparison, sterling pounds spent at a supermarket chain typically leads to more than 80% of the money leaving the area almost immediately. [10]

As well as potentially stimulating the local economy it can create stronger bonds within the community; by increasing social capital. [11] Buying locally can decrease emissions as locally produced good require less transportation. Local trade through the use of complementary currencies can be a resilience strategy; reducing impact of national economic crises and dependency on international trade, and enhancing self-sufficiency. It can also increase the awareness of the impact of one's economic activity. [10]


In 2017, the Bristol Post reported on some research that suggested the Bristol pound venture is too small to effect significant change in localism and has not increased local wealth or the production. A spokesperson for the Bristol Pound claimed the findings contradicted previous research by the University of Bristol. [12] [13]


Bristol was the first city in the UK in which taxes and business rates could be paid in a local currency. [6] Bristol pound account holders can convert £Bs to and from sterling at a 1:1 ratio. [14] Bristol City Council, and other organisations in the city, offer their employees the option to take part of their salaries in Bristol pounds. The former Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, accepted his entire salary (£51,000) in Bristol pounds. [15] [16]

From June 2015 energy bills were able to be paid in Bristol pounds to the 100% renewable energy provider, Good Energy. Its CEO claimed it is a world first for paying energy bills using a local currency. [17]

In June 2015, according to the Bristol Pound CEO, some £1 million had been issued in £Bs, with more than £B700,000 still in circulation. [10] More than 800 businesses accept Bristol Pounds and more than a thousand users have a Bristol pound account.[ citation needed ]

By late 2017, five million Bristol pounds had been spent. [12] However, by this stage, usage of the currency was beginning to decline.

In March 2020, the Bristol Post reported that the currency faced an uncertain future. However, as at April 2021, Bristol Pound CIC still exists and is focused on developing a new range of money and token based systems to continue its wider mission of helping to create a local economy that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and resilient to external shocks.

Organisation and partnerships

The Bristol pound is managed by the non-profit Bristol Pound Community Interest Company in collaboration with the local financial institution, the Bristol Credit Union. The Bristol Credit Union ensures that every £1 sterling converted to a printed £B1 is backed in a secure trust fund. The scheme is supported by Bristol City Council, although the council had substantially reduced any financial support from 2018. [18]

Bristol pound was involved in the Digipay4Growth project,[ when? ] coordinated by the Social Trade organisation and with partners such as Sardex. Through this project Bristol pounds digitalised its currency, using Cyclos software.[ citation needed ]

Bristol pound is part of a larger international movement of local currencies. The European funded Community Currencies in Action partnership provided support for communities which want to develop their new currency and works on innovations. [19] Within the UK, Bristol Pound CIC founded the Guild of Independent Currencies – a platform for sharing experiences about local currencies - which later became the Independent Money Alliance. In this framework, Bristol CIC assisted Exeter, amongst others, helping it to launch its own local currency; the Exeter Pound. [10] Whilst this formal group no longer exists, the Bristol pound CIC remains closely linked to other new economy and local currency groups in the UK, Europe and around the world.

Using the Bristol Pound

The Bristol pound was used in both paper and electronic format, like conventional money. One Bristol pound is equivalent to one sterling pound. Some businesses apply discounts for customers paying in Bristol pounds. [20] Local taxes and electricity bills can be paid with Bristol pounds online.

Paper Bristol Pounds

Paper £Bs can be used by anyone, have been designed by Bristolians, and carry many high security features to prevent fraud. [16] In June 2015 new paper £Bs were issued. These can be exchanged at a 1:1 rate for sterling at seventeen different cash points throughout the city, or ordered online through the Bristol pound website.

Electronic payments

The Bristol pound was the second local scheme (after the Brixton pound) to be able to accept electronic payments in the UK. [5] This allows, for example, participating small businesses to accept payments by SMS, without needing to pay for and install a credit card machine. [21] The businesses were latterly charged 1% of the amount billed for payments made by SMS, a similar or sometimes reduced rate than with credit or debit cards, or PayPal (3%). Payments can also be made online, with the recipient of each payment charged at a rate of 1%, capped at 95p per transaction.


Every paper £B is backed up by £1 sterling deposited at Bristol Credit Union. [18] The Bristol pound is not legal tender, and participation is therefore voluntary. [6] [22] The directors of the scheme cannot prevent national and multinational companies accepting paper £Bs, but can decide, based on the Rules of Membership, whether a business is permitted to open a Bristol pound account and trade electronically. [23]

Bristol pounds can only be exchanged back into sterling via an electronic Bristol pound account. There is no fee for doing this. [24] Paper Bristol Pounds cannot be directly exchanged back to sterling unless first deposited into an electronic account. Technically, the notes are vouchers and the first issue of the paper Bristol pounds also have an expiry date (30 September 2015). The Bank of England acknowledges the existence and role of local currencies. [25]


Bristol pound contributed to Bristol being awarded the title of European Green Capital 2015. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

A currency is a standardization of money in any form, in use or circulation as a medium of exchange, for example banknotes and coins. A more general definition is that a currency is a system of money in common use within a specific environment over time, especially for people in a nation state. Under this definition, the British Pound Sterling (£), euros (€), Japanese yen (¥), and U.S. dollars (US$)) are examples of (government-issued) fiat currencies. Currencies may act as stores of value and be traded between nations in foreign exchange markets, which determine the relative values of the different currencies. Currencies in this sense are either chosen by users or decreed by governments, and each type has limited boundaries of acceptance - i.e. legal tender laws may require a particular unit of account for payments to government agencies.

In economics, a local currency is a currency that can be spent in a particular geographical locality at participating organisations. A regional currency is a form of local currency encompassing a larger geographical area, while a community currency might be local or be used for exchange within an online community. A local currency acts as a complementary currency to a national currency, rather than replacing it, and aims to encourage spending within a local community, especially with locally owned businesses. Such currencies may not be backed by a national government nor be legal tender. About 300 complementary currencies, including local currencies, are listed in the Complementary Currency Resource Center worldwide database.

A local exchange trading system is a locally initiated, democratically organised, not-for-profit community enterprise that provides a community information service and records transactions of members exchanging goods and services by using locally created currency. LETS allow people to negotiate the value of their own hours or services, and to keep wealth in the locality where it is created.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">PayPal</span> American multinational financial technology company

PayPal Holdings, Inc. is an American multinational financial technology company operating an online payments system in the majority of countries that support online money transfers, and serves as an electronic alternative to traditional paper methods such as checks and money orders. The company operates as a payment processor for online vendors, auction sites and many other commercial users, for which it charges a fee.

Legal tender is a form of money that courts of law are required to recognize as satisfactory payment for any monetary debt. Each jurisdiction determines what is legal tender, but essentially it is anything which when offered ("tendered") in payment of a debt extinguishes the debt. There is no obligation on the creditor to accept the tendered payment, but the act of tendering the payment in legal tender discharges the debt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scrip</span> Any substitute for legal tender or currency

A scrip is any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit. Scrips have been created and used for a variety of reasons, including exploitive payment of employees under truck systems; or for use in local commerce at times when regular currency was unavailable, for example in remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in wartime. Besides company scrip, other forms of scrip include land scrip, vouchers, token coins such as subway tokens, IOUs, arcade tokens and tickets, and points on some credit cards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital currency</span> Currency stored on electronic systems

Digital currency is any currency, money, or money-like asset that is primarily managed, stored or exchanged on digital computer systems, especially over the internet. Types of digital currencies include cryptocurrency, virtual currency and central bank digital currency. Digital currency may be recorded on a distributed database on the internet, a centralized electronic computer database owned by a company or bank, within digital files or even on a stored-value card.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cheque</span> Method of payment

A cheque, or check is a document that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money from a person's account to the person in whose name the cheque has been issued. The person writing the cheque, known as the drawer, has a transaction banking account where the money is held. The drawer writes various details including the monetary amount, date, and a payee on the cheque, and signs it, ordering their bank, known as the drawee, to pay the amount of money stated to the payee.

A direct debit or direct withdrawal is a financial transaction in which one organisation withdraws funds from a payer's bank account.| Formally, the organisation that calls for the funds instructs their bank to collect an amount directly from another's bank account designated by the payer and pay those funds into a bank account designated by the payee. Before the payer's banker will allow the transaction to take place, the payer must have advised the bank that they have authorized the payee to directly draw the funds. It is also called pre-authorized debit (PAD) or pre-authorized payment (PAP). After the authorities are set up, the direct debit transactions are usually processed electronically.

A private currency is a currency issued by a private entity, be it an individual, a commercial business, a nonprofit or decentralized common enterprise. It is often contrasted with fiat currency issued by governments or central banks. In many countries, the issuance of private paper currencies and/or the minting of metal coins intended to be used as currency may even be a criminal act such as in the United States. Digital cryptocurrency is sometimes treated as an asset instead of a currency. Cryptocurrency is illegal as a currency in a few countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pennsylvania pound</span>

The pound was the currency of Pennsylvania until 1793. It was created as a response to the global economic downturn caused by the collapse of the South Sea Company. Initially, sterling and certain foreign coins circulated, supplemented from 1723 by local paper money, colonial scrip. Although these notes were denominated in £sd, they were worth less than sterling, with 1 Pennsylvanian shilling equalling 9d sterling.

The Totnes pound () was a complementary local currency, intended to support the local economy of Totnes, a town in Devon, England. It was in circulation from March 2007 to June 2019, when it was discontinued due partly to an increasingly cashless economy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transition town</span> A community with core principles of self-sufficiency

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroot community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instabilitythrough renewed localization strategies, especially around food production and energy usage. In 2006, the founding of Transition Town Totnes in the United Kingdom became an inspiration for other groups to form. The Transition Network charity was founded in early 2007, to support these projects. A number of the groups are officially registered with the Transition Network. Transition initiatives have been started in locations around the world, with many located in the United Kingdom and others in Europe, North America and Australia. While the aims remain the same, Transition initiatives' solutions are specific depending on the characteristics of the local area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lewes pound</span>

The Lewes pound is a local currency in use in the town of Lewes, East Sussex. Inspired by the Totnes pound and BerkShare, the currency was introduced with the blessing of the town council in September 2008 by Transition Town Lewes as a community response to the challenges of climate change and peak oil.

The Stroud pound is a local currency in use in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Unveiled on 12 September 2009, the scheme is the third local currency scheme introduced in England in recent years after the Totnes pound and the Lewes pound.

Fiscal localism comprises institutions of localized monetary exchange. Sometimes considered a backlash against global capitalism or economic globalization, fiscal localism affords voluntary, market structures that help communities trade more efficiently within their communities and regions.

The Community Exchange System (CES) is an internet-based global trading network which allows participants to buy and sell goods and services without using a national currency. It may be described as a type of local exchange trading system (LETS) network based on free software. While it can be used as an alternative to traditional currencies such as the Australian dollar or euro or South African rand, the Community Exchange System is a complementary currency in the sense that it functions alongside established currencies.

Circle is a peer-to-peer payments technology company. It was founded by Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville in October 2013. Circle is the issuer of the USDC stablecoin, with US$55 billion in circulation as of August 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exeter pound</span>

The Exeter pound (£E) was a form of local complementary currency, or community currency launched in Exeter, UK on 1 September 2015. Its objective was to ensure more money was spent with local and independent businesses. It was one of the many alternatives in the UK to the official sterling currency. It was discontinued on 30 September 2018.


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