If you visit the bustling county town of Lewes in East Sussex and go into of the shops or pubs, you will be offered the opportunity of exchanging your UK Sterling pounds for the local Lewes pounds. The exchange rate is one-to-one and there are no commission fees to worry about. In exchange you will be given notes which proudly display the portrait of Thomas Paine and the words “We have it in our power to build the world anew”.
This quote neatly sums up the aims of the scheme. The notes can only be spent in Lewes and they are an attempt to keep money in the local economy for the benefit of not only the local businesses, but also the residents. The aim is also to benefit the world as whole. Local shopping and local sourcing of produce will mean a reduction in CO2 emissions.
In addition, when a note is taken out of circulation, 5% will go to Sussex Community Foundation which supports community projects in Lewes.
Setting up a scheme requires the support of shops, traders, local government, and of course residents. The organisers must achieve a tipping point where the notes will be accepted by sufficient numbers of the community. There is also the problems of the cost of scheme and obtaining funding, often by sponsorship.
For a guide on how to set up a local currency scheme there is a 21 page guide available on the Transition Network website. Transition Network started the first UK local currency scheme in Totnes, Devon.
There are now of a number of towns in the UK which now operate their own local currency schemes or similar models, and there are several more which are considering the operation of such a model. It does not have to be a town which starts the scheme. Brixton, a multi-ethnic community in the built-up area of the London Borough of Lambeth has recently started the Brixton Pound.
Edit: Thank you Mark for telling me about Chepstow.
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