Photo credit: Jon Craig

On Friday 15th March, three Bristol MPs – Charlotte Leslie, Kerry McCarthy and Stephen Williams – visited Bristol Credit Union to open their Bristol Pound accounts. Each MP has committed to spending a minimum of £B50 per month from their own Parliamentary salaries and with their £B accounts they will be able to spend it by texting from their mobile phones.

The personal support of Bristol’s MPs from the three major parties marks a step change for the scheme as around half of £B140k issued are now digital. The scheme has brought numerous benefits and support to traders, communities, and the local economy. The Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson receives his entire salary in Bristol Pounds, and organisers hope that the support of MPs will encourage Bristol residents to join in with the scheme and support the independent traders that help make Bristol a great city.

Through opening Bristol Pound accounts, users are able to spend Bristol Pounds digitally, using the innovative payments system which allows for payment by text message, or online transfer. Having opened their accounts, all three MPs joined a Bristol Pound representative in a nearby eatery, Cafe Kino, to try out TXT2PAY for the first time.

Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for North West Bristol, said “When I attended the launch of the Bristol Pound in September it showed off the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that goes through the very veins of our city. I commend the Bristol Credit Union and its supporters for getting the message out there and I hope through this small act that we will be doing today we can grow this movement and encourage more businesses to accept; and more individuals to spend with Bristol Pounds.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristoll East, agreed; “I am delighted to open a Bristol Pound account today. The Bristol Pound is expanding day by day and has gained national recognition. It is a great way of supporting local businesses and our community. I would like to encourage more local traders in Bristol East and my constituents to open their own Bristol Pound account.”

Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, also showed strong support for the £B; “I have long supported the introduction of the Bristol Pound. This really is what Bristol is all about: it’s innovative, daring and I’m sure it will go a long way in helping our local high streets. I know that the scheme has already proven to be a success in helping our community in a multitude of ways and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved for their efforts in this exciting scheme.”

Ciaran Mundy, Director of Bristol Pound said “Six months in and we’re really starting to see the benefits of having a local currency for the city and surrounding region. Opening a Bristol Pound account and setting up a regular deposit by Standing Order or through Payroll, is the perfect way to support everything that makes Bristol a great place to live. A strong independent sector with flourishing local businesses bring a whole host of benefits to our communities and local economy, and the Bristol MPs are setting a fantastic example for all of us to join in with the scheme. Spending Bristol Pounds is good for everybody in Bristol, including visitors to the city! We know that the Bristol Pound brings new customers to local businesses, and gives customers a great feeling that they’re doing their bit to protect and support everything that’s great about Bristol.”

Since the scheme launched on September 19th 2012, the scheme has grown significantly. In February, 25 new business accounts were opened in 28 days, and as of the end of February, there are over £B140,000 in circulation. Hundreds of businesses are participating, and thousands of individuals have used the currency, in both paper and electronic form.

The Bristol Pound scheme is also aiming to encourage more locally-produced food in Bristol and the surrounding area through the Farm-Link Initiative, which gives allows primary producers within a 50 mile radius of the membership area to join the scheme. Currently, there are several Farm-Link Traders with Bristol Pound accounts, including The Community Farm, Stream Farm, The Severn Project CIC and The Story Group.

We’re looking into partnering with local green energy supplier Good Energy so you can pay your bills in Bristol Pounds. Not only does all Good Energy’s electricity come from clean, green sources like sunshine, wind and rain, it’s produced by a growing community of independent generators across Britain – 3,500 of which are in the Bristol area – making them a perfect match for us. If you’re interested, let us know by filling in the online form, giving us a call on 0117 929 8642 or by emailing energy@bristolpound.org and we’ll let you know how things develop.

The Bristol Pound are now holding regular sign-up sessions, for individuals to open accounts in person, every Wednesday lunchtime, 12.30-2.30pm at the entrance to the Corn Exchange. People can also still open an account online at www.bristolpound.org/signup

To open an account online go to www.bristolpound.org/signup, alternatively email the Bristol Pound team at info@bristolpound.org or call 0117 929 8642.

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