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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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'Cumbrian' pound idea gaining support

Support is growing for a ‘Cumbrian pound’ which would give the county its own currency.

Jem Bendell photo
Jem Bendell

It would be a way to ensure money earned in Cumbria was spent with local businesses and could also provide them with an interest-free means of credit.

Alternative currencies are already proving popular in other parts of the UK with more than 600 firms signed up to the Bristol pound, the country’s largest scheme.

The council accepts Bristol pounds for business rates and council tax and they are also accepted on local buses.

Now Jem Bendell, professor of sustainability leadership at the University of Cumbria, is promoting the idea of a Cumbrian pound or Lake District pound.

“The Bristol and Brixton pounds are going really well and experience has shown that when small businesses are involved in the design of these systems they are far more effective than when it is just ethical consumers involved,” he told our business website, in-Cumbria.com.

Now Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young has said the idea has merit and small business groups are also lending their support.

He said: “Initiatives like the Bristol pound have taken off through their links to credit unions. Cumbria County Council supports the credit union movement here as one of the linchpins of our anti-poverty strategy.

“If there was the impetus and drive to make a Cumbrian pound happen, then I’d like to see how we could add any support, as it sounds an interesting way of backing your local area.”

And Gary Lovatt, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses for Lancashire and Cumbria, said he believed a Cumbrian pound could make a real difference to firms based in the county.

“We welcome initiatives like this which will help local businesses and keep local money circulating for the benefit of the Cumbrian economy,” he said.

“Experiences from other parts of the UK prove that this kind of innovative approach can yield real benefits if communities embrace the opportunity.”

Mr Bendell estimates there would be a set-up cost of about £40,000 to kick-start the Cumbrian pound scheme, but the Bristol experience showed that cash could be generated by visitors to the area buying the local currency as a souvenir.

“The Bristol pounds look good so people want to keep that. Imagine what the Japanese tourists would think of a Lake District pound,” he added.

“We need to get genuine businesses involved and it needs to be well managed so I am hoping the county council will help take a lead.”

The idea is already gaining support with groups such as South Lakes Action on Climate Change and in July the New Economic Partnership is holding a workshop in Cumbria to help develop the idea.

Mr Bendell has studied alternative currencies across the world and gained national attention when he launched a scheme to allow people to pay for University of Cumbria courses with the virtual Bitcoin currency.

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