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Sheffield Pound : A New Currency For Sheffield

How much money spent in Sheffield stays within the city? We’re witnessing continued privatisation of our city centre, with plans to continue the compulsory purchase and bulldozing of historic streets, replacing them with security-guarded shopping malls. Walk around the city and you're faced with endless chains and multinationals squeezing out independent businesses. Do a bit of digging and you’ll quickly learn that offshore companies own lots of valuable real estate, which is where a lot of money spent here ultimately ends up. How could more money be kept here? Let’s imagine a local, complementary version of the pound, which is of equal value, to be used alongside the national cash and circulated only within the city. This isn't a new idea. Established local currencies exist in Brixton, Bristol and many other places here and abroad. The Swiss WIR has been around since the 1930s, with a turnover of 1.2 billion Swiss Francs and 62,000 members. The Brazilian Banco Palmas currency circulates in communities like Conjunto Palmeiras and has been replicated over 100 times across the country. Closer to home, in 2012 the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, decided to take his £50,000 annual salary entirely in Bristol Pounds to demonstrate the pride, self-sufficiency and independence of his city. Local complementary currencies like this are part of what is called the 'solidarity economy'. It’s not really a widely used term in the UK, but it basically encompasses things like co-operatives, Fairtrade, self-help and lots of other efforts to challenge social injustice in communities and subvert capitalism. Sheffield has some really active co-operatives and timebanking projects, including a new scheme hosted by Sheffield Creative Guild launching in May. The idea of a Sheffield Pound isn’t new. It’s just never been taken up here. Maybe now is the time. A Sheffield-based independent currency could see Sheffielders exchanging a proportion of their sterling at local ‘cash machines’ for Sheffield Pounds in note or electronic form. The Bank of England has written guidance on independent currencies to ensure that they do not destabilise sterling. Sheffield Pound account holders could trade their sterling bills for shiny Sheffield-crafted notes or coins, effectively functioning like tokens representing the same value as the pound. The money traded for local pounds will always be kept safe in a credit union account, ready to be withdrawn by the account holder at any time. Notes could be designed by local designers and artists, showcasing landmarks and famous Sheffielders. What denominations could there be? A £7 note could be useful when buying you and your mate a pint, and would reflect the seven hills in the city. It would seem a no-brainer to include some coinage, given our city's heritage of producing metal objects. Electronic payment could work alongside cash through smartphone apps and online banking. A Sheffield Pound would encourage people to support their local independent businesses, keeping money in our city by circulating it in a closed economy. We could take it further. The Brixton Pound charges business a small amount on transactions, which goes into a fund to provide grants to deserving projects in that community. Imagine paying your council tax in Sheffield Pounds, so that the Council procures that proportion of public services from local traders. Consumers, businesses, makers, credit unions - get in touch and let us know how you want to take part. The goal is to start by creating a million Sheffield Pounds, with an initial 100,000 in paper currency by October 2016. Would you consider taking your pay cheque in Sheffield Pounds? facebook.com/SheffieldPound @sheffieldpound )

Next article in issue 97

Steve Bell: Political Cartoonist Comes To Sheffield

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Steve Bell is a cartoonist best known for his regular work published in The Guardian, beginning in 1981 with the strip If…, which he continu

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