Q&A: Everything you need to know about the Exeter Pound

Ian Martin, Exeter Pound project worker, tells Gordon Richardson of the Express and Echo about the new local currency we could all be spending later this year.

Daniel Hillier and Lily Bedingham with the new Exeter Pound logo

The Exeter Pound is due to be launched before the Rugby World Cup comes to the city in September. 

So what’s the thinking behind the Exeter Pound?

Our mission is to connect the people who live, work and visit Exeter to a wider variety of local, independent businesses in a colourful and engaging way, strengthening the city’s local economic character and building economic resilience. We have seen recently how big retail businesses can suddenly pull out of a local economy.

The people of Exeter are proud to live in a city of character. They already demonstrate that pride partly by spending in independently owned shops in the city centre and their local neighbourhood. We hope the Exeter Pound will increase that spending trend, as more people rediscover the good value and the stronger links they make in their community from spending with local independent businesses.

Who’s involved in making it happen?

The initiative came jointly from Exeter City Council and Transition Exeter after meetings with Bristol Pound. The steering group comprises local businesses, faith groups, a credit union and the Exeter Federation of Small Businesses. There are now three part-time workers and a growing number of volunteers.

When will it launch?

We aim to launch early in September, shortly before the Rugby World Cup.

Where can I get my hands on some Exeter Pounds?

There will be a number of exchange points in the city where the paper notes can be obtained. Alternatively electronic transfers will be possible between sterling and Exeter Pound accounts. The sign up process will be very simple. One major employer in the city is consulting their staff on paying a small percentage of their salary in Exeter Pounds. We hope that other employers may do the same.

What’s the exchange rate?

One Exeter Pound will be worth one Pound Sterling. All the Sterling exchanged will be held in a separate credit union account. Our systems will be compliant with financial regulations covering local currencies. As well as trading in notes, there will be electronic accounts available for individuals, so people can exchange online and pay businesses that have registered with us by text or with the Exeter Pound App.

Where will I be able spend them?

Our ambition is that 100 independent local businesses will sign up to the scheme before our launch. People will be able to find them on maps we produce, on our website, or through the app.

What will the notes look like?

They will look like a modern bank note, somewhere between the current sterling issue and the new version and brighter more vibrant designs that many people may have seen on notes abroad.

How will you stop people forging them?

They will be printed by a specialist printer that has successfully produced notes for other local currency schemes. Each note will have seven security features.

That sounds quite expensive. How much is it costing to launch the city’s own currency and where is the funding coming from?

Launching a local currency is not cheap. The printing of the notes alone will cost more than £10,000, which will be paid in part by council grants, advertising in our promotional literature and the sale of commemorative sets of notes. We know from other local currencies that there is a considerable market for this. The reason we are aiming to launch shortly before the Rugby World Cup is that we hope that will boost interest and sales of the notes. We are aiming to produce a special commemorative Rugby World Cup note.

Where else has the idea of a local currency been tried and how successful have they been?

In the Westcountry, although we are closer to Totnes, which has sustained a local currency since 2007, more people may have come across the Bristol Pound. After two years 800 independent local businesses are part of Bristol Pound and last year £1million of business was transacted in the local currency. Although more than four times as big Exeter, as a smaller city we are aiming to match the success of Bristol Pound.

How can businesses find out more if they want to get involved?

All the information needed is on our website as well as our contact details. Some people may have seen us on Facebook or on Twitter where we are @exeterpound. We are based in Exeter Council’s Civic Centre and are very willing to make an arrangement to meet with businesses who we haven’t already spoken with to explain Exeter Pound in person. We have regular business network meetings at The City Gate and monthly volunteer meetings at The Globe, Newtown for anyone who wants to get involved. Please do contact us via our website exeterpound.org.uk.