The first Bristol Pound was used on 19 September 2012 to buy a loaf of bread at the nails outside St Nicholas Market. Five years on and the five millionth Bristol Pound has now been spent.
Since its launch, the Bristol Pound has achieved much success and grown its reputation as the largest citywide alternative currency scheme in the UK. It’s the only alternative currency that can be spent on local taxes, on bus and train fares and for local energy suppliers.
While the Bristol Pound is possibly most famous for its paper notes, denoting Bristol’s radical and creative culture, it is the digital Bristol Pounds which account for most of the activity. Over the five years it has been in circulation there have been 80,000 digital transactions made by text, app and online banking. 1433 personal account holders pay the 620 business account holders, and those businesses trade with one another.
CEO of the Bristol Pound, Ciaran Mundy, commented: “5 years in and Bristol’s local currency is something I am really proud to be part of helping make happen. The people of Bristol have said they want their money to work differently, for people not banks, and then they’ve gone and put their money where their mouth is. Every Bristol Pound spent is a step towards a resilient, localised greener economy.”
The Bristol Pound works to create a circular economy, where local independent businesses are favoured over large corporate chains which are not able to use the currency. By using Bristol Pounds in place of Sterling members of the Bristol Pound are bypassing traditional banking systems, ringfencing money in the Bristol economy so that it cannot enter the global markets and be lost from the city.
Ken Simpson is the chairman of the Bristol branch of the Federation of Small Business and is the Business Manager at the Bristol Pound: “besides the obvious economic benefits of keeping money in the city, the Bristol Pound is a unique marketing tool – there’s a directory, an app, printed maps too, which all point people to Bristol Pound business members. Increasingly, customers want to know their money is staying in the city – by accepting Bristol Pounds you’re making that really easy for them.”
While the Bristol Pound has been hailed by some as a big success, the grassroots organisation is only just getting started. Mr Mundy is inviting more people to become members: “the number of Bristol Pounds circulating is impressive for a local currency, but is still small relative to the Bristol economy. If we want to see the really big economic benefits, we need to see even more Bristol Pounds moving around. If you haven’t yet – open an account today and have a go at spending some Bristol money. We’re going to continue to be as innovative as the city we serve, and will keep evolving to make things as simple as possible for members to get spending. Watch out for future announcements!”
- Just over £5million Bristol Pounds have been spent in Bristol since the launch of our city’s currency, including paper and electronic payments.
- Over 80,000 transactions have been made by text, app and online banking since the scheme launch. This is around 300 a week.
- Currently there are 832 businesses registered as accepting Bristol Pounds. Of these, 620 have accounts.
- 1433 individuals have electronic Bristol Pound accounts allowing them to pay by text, app and online.
- Our local currency can be spent with the council, to pay for utilities with Bristol Energy and Good Energy, and to buy bus and train tickets with first or at temple meads. 159 people are regularly paying council tax or business rates in Bristol Pounds.
- More than £300k in Bristol Pound paper notes have been issued since the launch of the scheme. They will have been spent more than once with an estimate of up to 3 times in the local economy.