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Cooperative Council, Finance and money

Lambeth Lolly: Plans for borough to get its own currency

The success of Britain’s first urban local currency, the Brixton Pound (B£), means that it will be expanded to the whole of Lambeth, its founders say.

Working with the council, organisers hope to launch an electronic version of the currency which will enable payments using mobile phones.

Transition Town Brixton is working with Lambeth based NEF (the New Economics Foundation) to extend the Brixton Pound scheme. The idea is that people could hold ‘Lambeth Points’ on their mobile phones and make payments in local shops through simple text message instructions via the internet, in much the same way as a debit card.

Because the currency can’t leave the area, nor be ‘banked’ to earn interest, customers using it know they will be putting money in to circulation, supporting local shops and jobs. The scheme is designed to maintain the diversity of the Borough’s high streets and prevent them becoming just another ‘clone town’ in the face of competition from chain stores.

The plan is just one of the initiatives outlined in a report launched this week. ‘The Cooperative Council, Sharing power: a new settlement between citizens and the state’ details the steps Lambeth will take to become a co-operative council, which means placing residents at the heart of decision making and service delivery.

It is hoped that a Lambeth currency will help incentivise residents to volunteer; a major element of the cooperative model. Residents will be rewarded with credits at a “Lambeth Cooperative Council Time bank”. They could spend these in local shops or Leisure Centres, or on local services, or use them to get a discount on their residents’ parking permit. The council wants to link these plans with the local currency, so that volunteers build up credits for the work they do in the local currency,

Cllr Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, said: “This cooperative currency is just one part of our plan to revolutionise .local government. Our research tells us that Lambeth residents are ready to step up and volunteer and a borough currency will help reward them while keeping the money in the borough.

“The Brixton Pound is a fantastic idea that is really giving a boost to local independent shops and Transition Town Brixton deserve tremendous credit for its success so far.”

Josh Ryan-Collins, a Director of the Brixton Pound and researcher at NEF said “This is a really exciting step forward for the Brixton Pound and for Lambeth’s businesses and community. We are going to create a borough-wide social currency that will reward people for supporting each other and have the important added value of helping the small businesses that are Lambeth’s life-blood and job creators.”

“The currency will use the latest mobile phone technology to enable us to upscale the Brixton Pound across the borough and facilitate easier and larger payments. By combining this with a reward scheme we will also help those who do not have access to sterling and get greater user participation in public services.”

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