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Page last updated at 23:06 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 00:06 UK

Lewes plans its own local currency

By Ian Rose
Working Lunch

Lewes is trying to create its own currency

The news agenda is filled with stories of a global credit crunch.

Banks are hard up for money and customers are finding it more difficult to get credit.

In the Sussex town of Lewes they're devising a plan which could change all of that. They want to print their own local money.

Inspired by the Devon town of Totnes which launched its own currency last year, Lewes locals are at the start of the process of re-launching their own cash.

The town did have its own pound before but it was last in circulation in 1895.

Shop near where you live

The group behind the schemes in both Totnes and Lewes are part of the "Transition" movement which is concerned with the impact of rising oil prices and consumption.

They hope that the new money will encourage shops and customers to buy local produce and reduce their fuel consumption.

It's also hoped the scheme will encourage a greater sense of community.

Adrienne Campbell, one of the people behind the plan, says: "We're a group of people who want to re-localise and strengthen the local economy - grow our food locally, have more businesses locally and generate our own energy locally as well."

Bill Collison who runs the local greengrocer and café says that he's backing the scheme even though it could mean more paperwork.

He says it's another coin to count, and then you have to figure out a way of changing your takings back to regular currency at the end of the process.

Local scepticism

Some other locals aren't as keen.

They say that life's confusing enough and they want to spend their money where they want.

But shopkeepers are keen, with many of the owners of local businesses backing the move.

Whether it's popular or not, the very question of a town issuing its own currency does stimulate a debate about how money actually works.

It is after all simply paper, which only works because we all agree it has a special value.

The team in Lewes may have a job convincing some of the locals to agree that their pieces of paper carry the same value.

But they are taking their time, and they're hoping to be ready for a launch by September.


What do you think of having your town having its own local currency? Would you use it? Email us at Working Lunch or drop us a line at working.lunch@bbc.co.uk


YOUR EMAILS

Following on from the fantastic efforts of the people in Lewes, we are trying to get Eastbourne launched as a Transition Town. Nationally and globally we are all faced with the prospect of declining fossil fuels availability and climate change. I think its great that these people are working so hard to get systems put in place that will make their communities stronger and more resilient.

I am sure that if more people had the time to think of how life is going to look without the availability of cheap oil and gas they would be more behind the idea of a local currency. Things are going to change whether we like it or not so this kind of preparation is essential.

Neil Robinson.


Great idea. We're also looking at doing the same thing in Stroud.

People need to realise that oil and food prices will continue to rise, and that we need to change the way we live our lives in order to be more sustainable, both environmentally and financially sustainable.

Jamie Baldwin


It is a great idea for promoting local goods and services. But is it legal?

Can a city or town issue currency notes? Is it not against the law? If the legal issues can be overcome then I think others should also think on the same lines. It will be good for everybody the locals as well as lead to wellbeing of the nation by reducing demand for fuel for transporation, better employment opportunities for people in their own localities, etc.

Balakrishna S.Pai


After reading the article about the local currency, I am forced to think about several issues and wonder exactly how they plan to implement this plan and once in force, how does that effect the towns position within the UK government system?

I wonder how the money will be issued? When you hand over a Queen's pound in the cafe, will you be given Lewes currency in return?

What if you don't want a Lewes penny... maybe you don't live there and are just passing through, do you now have to go to the Lewes "bank" and get your money converted?

Will the Queen be a feature of this currency, it is after all is said and done, her country. Not that the knights of the round table will come swashbuckling into Town and defend Queen and Country.... but what legal value does this currency have and how devaluing will it be to UK sterling?

And of course, there is the question of taxes? Will the residents be asked to pay Lewes taxes in Lewes currency, or will they exempt themselves from Government Taxes, being as they are exempting themselves from government money?

I am all about buying locally, growing my own, recycling, supporting local farms, buying from local stores rather than supermarkets, but I wonder if the headache of two currencies in one country is really viable or practical. Europe had separate currencies for each country not too many years ago. Driving into France from Spain, or Italy from France was always so time consuming when I had to change the currencies and work out the exchange rates. I can't imagine what it would be like if every town in the UK started such a scheme.

Tanya Hannington




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