Birthday Treasure Hall of Winners

This week, we have lead you on a quest around the city to find treasure packets of Bristol Pounds in celebration of our 5th birthday. We hope our clues have lead you to explore the radical, alternative people and places that have helped to make Bristol such a special place to live. We tied it up last night when treasure seekers braved the rain to dig for £B100 in Castle Park. Thanks to all those who took part and congratulations to our lucky winners!

As we look to the future, we pledge to continue to be as innovative as the city we serve and to keep imagining a greener, fairer economy that serves people, not banks.

So thanks for playing Bristol – here’s the winners hall of fame:

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Bristol Pound launch city wide treasure hunt

Bristol’s local currency have this week unveiled plans to hide thirteen treasure troves containing Bristol’s money around the city. The treasure hunt, which is being held to celebrate the currency’s fifth birthday, will run from 12 – 18 September when daily clues will be released via social media to lead Bristolians to uncover prizes of up to £B100.

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Which parliamentary candidates will fight for a fairer, stronger and greener local economy for Bristol?

The Bristol Pound asks candidates for Bristol West and South how they will support a strong local economy.

The people of Bristol are gearing up for the final round of campaigns before we hit the ballot box on Thursday 8th June, and it’s a general election like no other.

The emphasis of party campaigns has been centred around important national and global concerns, but in such turbulent political times, it’s easy to lose sight of the local issues affecting the communities we know and love. Before you nail your colours to the mast, what do you really know about Bristol’s candidates’ policies on our local economy?

The UK’s economy has transformed beyond recognition over the last 30 years, from an economy centred around manufacturing to one profiting from its massive financial sector. The UK can now be seen as a playground for multi-national corporations, with the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20. The current financial system has given birth to all kinds of issues, the housing crisis being just one that has severely affected Bristol.

Whatever your political affiliation may be, the arguments for building a strong local economy are genuine; stimulating employment growth, procurement of local products without large carbon price tags and reducing inequality are just some of the things we can achieve by a fairer local economy.

I asked Bristol’s main candidates for South and West how they planned to create a fairer, stronger and happier economy in Bristol, and here’s what they said…

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How can we make sure that more of our taxes stay in Bristol, working for the people who live here?

The council spends £350 million of public money each year. Most of this is spent with businesses outside of Bristol, including with large multi-nationals. The Panama Papers released last year made it clear that some of this ends up in tax havens overseas. What can we do to ensure that more of our taxes stay in Bristol, supporting the real economy – the local businesses and the people who live here?

Well, the obvious answer is: pay your taxes in Bristol Pounds.

Bristol City Council is committed to respending 100% of the Bristol Pounds they receive – as business rates, BID payments, market rents and council tax.

That means that if you pay your council tax in Bristol Pounds, every (Bristol) penny of it goes back out in Bristol Pounds to local, independent businesses – supporting local jobs and getting money moving around the city.

Last year 119 people paid their council tax in Bristol Pounds. That’s great! But just imagine how much wealth we could keep moving around the city if we could increase that number this coming tax year!

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So, what happens to the Bristol Pounds the Council is getting now?

Many council employees choose to take a part of their wages in Bristol Pounds. In doing this, council employees (civil servants and councillors) take on the pledge to spend more of their own money locally. Some choose to buy their lunch from an independent café, pay their energy bills or buy their groceries, some decided to buy all their gifts from independent retailers. Watch from 0:56 to hear from Councillor Carla Denyer and then council employee Elaine Ashley:

But last year, Bristol City Council got even more ambitious. They decided to use their Bristol Pounds to choose a local architect firm Alec French for some crucial renovation work on Bristol’s City Hall. This kept a significant amount of public money within our local economy, passing on a pledge for Alec French to localise their supply chains too.

Here’s what Nigel Dyke, Director of Alec French had to say on why supporting our local economy is important:

“Alec French have had a Bristol Pound account for nearly 3 years now.  Set up in 2015 as part of our response to Bristol Green Capital we have used it to localise our supply chain wherever possible.  As a local business we see this as an important part of our commitment to Bristol and our support for a great organisation contributing massively to a better city.”

Paying your council tax is an amazing way of ensuring our hard-earned taxes work for communities in Bristol and don’t leak out of the city through large multi-national companies to offshore tax havens and executive pay deals. Let’s use our money for good.

Council tax bills will be hitting doormats from next week. So you can set up your Bristol Pound payments pretty soon (and if you don’t have an account yet, there’s still time to sign up to get your payments done in Bristol Pounds).

Here’s Hannah explaining how to do it:

If you have any troubles setting up the payment, we’ve got brand new video walk-throughs available (uploaded this week!) on our YouTube page. And you can always get in touch – I’m here to help you. Email me on ruby@bristolpound.org or call me on 0117 929 8642.

Oh, and if you don’t have a Bristol Pound account yet, sign up for one now and let’s change money, for good!

Cheers all,

Ruby

There’s a new sterling £5 note out – so let’s celebrate… why Bristol’s is better

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In celebration of the UK’s new £5 notes, let’s remember why Bristol’s are better

This month the Bank of England has launched the new sterling five pound note. It will be stronger and more durable, with better security features: it is said to be “cleaner, safer and stronger” – so says the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.

In celebration of the new, durable £5 note, let’s remember why Bristol notes offer a cleaner, greener, fairer alternative

The Bristol £B5 note reflects the colourful cultural diversity of our city and was lovingly created by local artist and musician Yoshino Shighara. It features an Aye-Aye; a highly endangered nocturnal lemur exploring Hotwells (or is it Totterdown?) with its colourful houses and bright lights.

Carney’s comments about the new sterling fiver are of course about the physical note itself, but we couldn’t help but think that the way money works today is far from ‘clean’. It is very easy for bankers to gamble our wealth away,  for multinationals to dodge tax and for arms and drugs dealers to plié their trades. It encourages unnecessary transport of goods that could be sourced more locally and so polluting the air and causing climate change. Is this money clean?

How ‘safe’ is our money when it is wisped out of our pockets and out of the city by chain stores while distant shareholders and inappropriately disproportionate pay CEOs stockpile this wealth? Is this money safe?

And how ‘strong’ is the system of making this money? It is based on debt and interest charges (Yes, 97% of money is created this way by profit seeking banks). In fact if us ordinary folk ever repaid all our debt the economy would instantly collapse. We are still paying for the collapse of banking in 2008. Is this money strong?

The new sterling fiver also features both an unelected head of state and the face of Winston Churchill; most see Churchill as a national wartime hero, and who can argue with needing to stand up to the Nazis? But Churchill was also a divisive figure who’s undoubted national achievements come with some serious flaws: as referenced in this BBC source Churchill was a self-professed racist, favoured genocide and let 3 million people in India die of starvation*.

So in celebration of the new sterling note, let’s remember why Bristol notes are better!

This city is created by all of us, in every action we take. In which projects, businesses and cooperatives we support and in who we choose to respect – Bristol’s £B5 note has not one, but a dozen influential figures on by local artist Stewy: DJ Derek, J.K. Rowling, Robert Wyatt (of Soft Machine), Blackbeard, Tony Benn, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Tricky, Elizabeth Blackwell M.D., Banksy, Alfred the Gorilla, Colin Pillinger CBEClaudia Fragapane.

I know we’re talking about the Bristol fiver, but while we’re here did you know, the £B10 shows Bristolian suffragette Annie Kenney; a working class member of the Women’s Social & Political Union. Kenney was a leading figure in the Suffragette movement and was imprisoned for assault and obstruction in 1905 following a heckling incident in the struggle to gain women the right to vote. Annie Kenney features on our £B10 note in an inked pen portrait by local artist Juraj Proda painted between 1997 – 2004.

Also depicted on our £B10 note is a celebration of the successful Bristol bus boycott of 1963. Local civil rights campaigner, Paul Stephenson OBE, can be seen picketing against the racist refusal of Bristol Omnibus Company to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. His campaigns were instrumental in paving the way for the Race Relations Act in 1965. The artist is Luke Carter, Bristol based illustrator.

All in all, we think these historical figures make for much better role models (except maybe Blackbeard!) and better represent the people and history of our progressive, inclusive and creative city. So here’s to our Bristol fiver, cleaner, safer and stronger!

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Find out more about the Bristol Pound paper notes here: bristolpound.org/new-bristol-pounds

*You can read about ‘the 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’ here: bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767

Written by Ruby Szarowicz and Adam Rich

Bringing Bristol Pound to Massive Attack at the Downs

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27,000 Bristolians braved the storm on Saturday to watch Massive Attack perform at the Downs and we were very proud to be there promoting a fairer economy to soggy gig-goers. We sold a whopping £B4,284; breaking the record for most cash in one day since our launch in 2012.

The ethos of the festival was political, outlining the 21st century chaos of Brexit, racism, plight of refugees and growing inequality. We felt really encouraged by the response from the crowd, who listened and understood our message; if we change money, we can change the world.

So massive thanks to Team Love for inviting us to be the official currency of the festival. Also, a thanks to Fairphone for being our card payment tech and to Bristol Wood Recycling Project for pallets that were our ‘bank’ counter. Most of all a huge thank you to Bristol for being such a progressive, open minded city looking for a fairer, more equal future.

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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