Frequently Asked Questions
All you ever needed to know about the Brixton Pound!
(But if you do have further queries, email [email protected] )
- What is local currency?
Local currency can take many forms, but essentially it is money that is used across a particular locality or region. Spending in the target area boosts local economic activity by retaining money in the area. This encourages and strengthens economic ties between the people of the area and local traders.
The Brixton Pound (B£) is a complimentary currency that can be used alone or alongside the national currency. Whilst there are some rules for taking part in the scheme, local currency is not legal tender like sterling and so accepting Brixton Pounds is voluntary.
For information on local currencies head here.
- Why have you set up a local currency?
The primary purposes of the scheme are to strengthen the local economy by incentivising people to use independent local businesses, and celebrate and further build community pride. We know that throughout its history Brixton has demonstrated an incredibly strong sense of local identity, and we believe that independent businesses are part of this landscape.
By incentivising spending in independent businesses, the Brixton Pound helps wealth created in Brixton to stick to the area. Known as the multiplier effect, Brixton Pounds will be spent repeatedly only within the local economy. With sterling, much of the wealth spent in the city is lost to big international business, related management structures, remote shareholders and the boom-bust of the financial banking system. The Brixton Pound can help deepen and diversify the connections between local business people and all the citizens of the region – an important part of building a sustainable local economy and providing high quality employment.
- Is it like a LETS scheme?
LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) is a different type of local exchange model which is not exchangeable for sterling.
- How do I leave the scheme if I no longer want to be involved?
Individual members can stop their membership by simply telling us in writing to close their account. Unfortunately we are not able to refund B£e balances back to sterling, so you will have to make sure that you spend your final balance before closing your account.
We ask business members to give two months notice in order to provide us with the opportunity to update online and print marketing material.
- What can I do with Brixton Pounds other than pay my suppliers and trade with other Business Members?
Business members that pay business rates to Lambeth Council can pay in Brixton Pounds via our office. You can also pay your BID levy in the same way.
The Brixton Pound also offers a payroll scheme enabling business members to pay a small proportion of wages in Brixton Pounds to willing employees. This is entirely voluntary but we hope business members will encourage employees to get involved in using Brixton Pounds.
- Why in Brixton?
Brixton was the first urban location in the UK to have a local currency, and for many that was a surprise. However we believe that we are following in the spirit of many initiatives rooted in Brixton which have traditionally sought to challenge orthodoxy.
London is a global city and we recognise the limits of what can be achieved from the local level. However we have recently seen the effects of 'shocks' to the global system and we believe that creating a more resilient local economy that is less dependent on this system is a good thing.
It's also apparent that as a global city, London can be quite an alienating place. Step outside a tube station in many parts of London and you are faced with the same sight of chain shops. The Brixton Pound is as much about connecting people to the small business community, and each other, on a social level, as it is an economic tool.
- How will it benefit my business?
i) Advertising your business to the public and other businesses
Recent local currency schemes have successfully raised the profile of member businesses through generating very significant media coverage. The Brixton Pound has received worldwide media coverage and has been a source of massive positive publicity for Brixton. We are well-known locally and have a popular website and a large social media following.
ii) Ease of use for your customers
Our e-currency, pay-by-text, was the first of its kind in the UK and has revolutionised the way people spend money in Brixton. Best of all, it's simple. Signing up for an account takes a few minutes and from there you can get spending via text message and now by a mobile app too.
Our paper notes have won awards for their design, with local artists capturing the current and historical culture of Brixton in beautiful multi-colour, and printed on secure money paper.
iii) Better communities mean better business
A local currency has the potential to significantly increase the amount of spending power of people in the target area. When a customer has Brixton Pounds in their wallet, they cannot bank them, or take them to another part of London; there is only one thing they can do and that is SPEND them!
Most Brixton Pound users live, work, or spend significant amounts of time in Brixton. That means that they are the type of customers that will return again and again. When a customer uses Brixton Pounds, you know that they are local, so use it as a conversation point and start getting to know them. A financial transaction can be a social transaction too.
- How much does it cost to join?
Nothing! There is currently no joining fee or ongoing membership fee to be a member of the Brixton Pound.
- Why will my customers use the local currency rather than sterling?
In developing this currency we have seen real enthusiasm for it. People want this positive, active way of showing their support for Brixton and its independent traders. It is a great way of being part of the community, and discovering Brixton. It offers a real alternative to sterling, enabling people to support the local economy and get closer to local businesses and suppliers, being much more than just a consumer.
We actively promote all the business members of the Brixton Pound through online and print media.
The printed Brixton Pounds have a strong marketing effect for the independent sector. The mobile phone system represents an exciting and fresh way to pay for goods and services, especially appealing to those who love something new.
- Are there any charges for using the Brixton Pound?
The only associated fee for using the Brixton Pound is a 1.5% transaction fee, paid by the recipient business.
We are proud to say that the full amount of this fee goes into the Brixton Fund, a micro-grant scheme for Brixton causes and initiatives.
- How can I join the Brixton Pound?
Joining up to use the Brixton Pound could not be easier. Of course you can just go to one of our issuing points and pick up some of our paper notes. However we really encourage you to delve a bit deeper and start using our e-currency, B£e. It's free and uses mobile phones to make payments, either by text message or mobile app. All you need to do is sign up online for a customer B£ account.
- Will my suppliers accept Brixton Pounds?
At launch there was already a large number of businesses from around the region already signed up, and more and more businesses want to join. The system is one of voluntary membership and complementary to sterling – we do not expect members to trade wholly in Brixton Pounds even with other members of the scheme. However, if your suppliers are not members, then we will work with you to encourage them to join, if appropriate, or source alternative suppliers who are members of the scheme.
- What happens to the sterling exchanged into Brixton Pounds? Is it safe?
All sterling which we receive in exchange for Brixton Pounds is held at the London Mutual Credit Union in a trust account as backing for the currency and to provide certainty of value to Brixton Pounds. It will not be used to fund the activities of Brixton Pound CIC. Credit Unions are authorised and regulated at a national level by the Financial Conduct Authority & Prudential Regulation Authority.
This arrangement will strengthen London Mutual Credit Union which has a clear social purpose to be a community anchor for the city, providing fair financial services for all the people of Brixton, and offering competitive, viable alternative financial provision for member benefit and not for private profit.
- Can I exchange printed or electronic Brixton Pounds back into sterling?
Paper Brixton Pounds can be exchanged for sterling at any time at Cash for Cheques on Atlantic Road.
B£e can be exchanged for sterling via your online B£ account at no charge. However we do ask member businesses to make reasonable efforts to spend the money with other members, or at the very least (if applicable) use them to pay your business rates to Lambeth or your BID levy. Keeping Brixton Pounds circulating is the best way to maximise the scheme's benefits.
Remember that changing back to sterling increases the amount of money that will leak out of the Brixton area.
- What do you do to prevent fraud?
All of the denominated official Brixton Pounds incorporate a raft of the latest security features that make printing fraudulent notes very difficult and expensive. The number of notes in circulation is also monitored and regularly tested for authenticity.
We take security very seriously and since our launch in 2009 have not encountered a single breach of this. Attempts at fraudulent electronic transactions can be easily traced as these transactions are only possible between members through accounts managed by us. If a member’s mobile phone is lost or stolen, their Brixton Pound account can be frozen very quickly.
- Is this being done anywhere else?
There is a long history of places having their own currencies and it was very common in this country until the centralisation of the banking industry in the 19th century. More recently, many places around the world, including the UK, have launched local currencies using a variety of models. Examples include Bristol, Totnes, Kingston, Liverpool, Exeter, Lewes and Stroud. We know that many more have been discussed and will likely launch in the near future.
- Can Brixton Pounds be spent outside Brixton?
To accept B£e a business must be located in Brixton or at the very least be on its outskirts.
As a London destination we recognise that Brixton receives thousands of visitors every week and we encourage them to set up Brixton Pound accounts and use them as a way to discover the one and only Brixton.
- Does my business have to accept full payment in the currency?
In becoming a member, a business is making a firm commitment to accept Brixton Pounds in payment for goods and services. We will work with business members to find effective ways of spending any Brixton Pounds received.
In reality we would never try and force a member to accept full payment in Brixton Pounds against their wishes. Brixton Pounds are not legal tender, but we do ask that businesses honour the spirit of the commitment they have made in working with us to make the Brixton Pound a success.
- How does taking Brixton Pounds affect my tax liability?
For tax purposes all Brixton Pound transactions are treated as if they were made in sterling. So this will not affect how you declare your revenues, expenses and any taxable profits to HMRC. Likewise VAT should be charged based on the price of goods as normal. On completing VAT returns, payments to HMRC must be made in sterling.
For internal accounting purposes, your online Brixton Pound account will have various transaction reports available which can easily be exported or printed.
- Will the paper Brixton Pounds be accepted at a bank?
Paper Brixton Pounds cannot be deposited with banks.
- Will the scheme make a profit, and if it does, what happens to the money?
The Brixton Pound is run for the benefit of its members and for Brixton, not for profit. The current board proposes that any surplus revenue be placed in the Brixton Fund, for the benefit of Brixton.