|Central bank||Bristol Credit Union|
|Freq. used||£B1, £B5, £B10, £B20|
The Bristol Pound (£B) is a form of local alternative currency launched in Bristol, UK on 19 September 2012. Its objective is to encourage people to spend their money with local Bristol businesses. As of September 2012[update] it is the largest alternative in the UK to the official sterling currency.
The Bristol Pound was created after over three years of development as a complementary booster for the local economy, and is used primarily between local businesses. "This will be money created by the people of Bristol for the Bristol people... We'll be driving to get more money going to independent traders, to ensure we continue to keep the diversity of our city", said organiser Ciaran Mundy. The scheme is a joint not-for-profit enterprise between Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union.
The scheme is backed by Bristol City Council and a local financial institution, Bristol Credit Union. Because of the local council support, Bristolians are able to pay their local taxes using the new currency. Bristol pounds can be converted to and from pounds sterling and are equal in value to sterling. In February 2012 over 100 local businesses had signed up to the scheme while, at its launch date in September 2012, over 350 businesses had signed up for accounts. £125,000 worth of the new currency was initially made available. At that time it was the largest alternative in the UK to the official sterling currency and by September 2013 the scheme had opened over 1200 online accounts that allowed members of the scheme to make payments using an sms text system TXT2PAY. The first year of the scheme also saw more than £300,000 changed from sterling into Bristol Pounds. In November 2012, Bristol's first elected Mayor, George Ferguson, announced that his £51,000 salary would be paid in Bristol pounds.
Printed notes are available for tender, being printed by an independent company. Efforts have been made to make the notes very difficult and expensive to forge. There are eight designs for the notes, two for each value, chosen from thousands of designs submitted by members of the public in a Bristol Evening Post competition. Illustrations on the notes include icons associated with Bristol such as religious writer, philanthropist and Bristolian Hannah More, the Concorde airliner, the local St Pauls Carnival and a graffiti tiger writing "O Liberty!" on a wall.
Because of its backing by a bona fide financial institution (Bristol Credit Union) the Bristol Pound was the first local scheme to be able to accept electronic payments. This allows, for example, participating small businesses to accept payments by SMS, without needing to pay for and install a credit card machine. Payments can also be made online.
Every paper £B is backed up by a pound sterling deposited at Bristol Credit Union. Other banks do not accept £B as legal tender. Neither are local businesses obliged to accept the notes. Equally, the organisers cannot prevent national and multinational companies accepting £B, despite the currency being aimed at the local economy.
Bristol Pounds can be exchanged back into pounds sterling at the Bristol Credit Union by partaking businesses. There is no fee for doing this.
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- Rob Sharp (1 May 2008). "They don't just shop local in Totnes – they have their very own currency". The Independent.
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- "Bristol Pound note designs unveiled". thisisbristol.co.uk. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- Hastings, Rob (20 September 2012). "The Bristol Pound is launched to help independent retailers". The Independent. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- "Bristol Pound – Our City. Our Money – FAQs". Bristol Pound website. Retrieved 19 September 2012.