The Lewes Pound is a local currency running in the town of Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom. Inspired by the Totnes Pound and BerkShare, this complementary currency was introduced with the blessing of the town council in September 2008 by the Lewes Pound Group, a spin off from the Business Group of Transition Town Lewes. The mission of the Transition Town movement is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they adapt their town and community on a journey to build local resilience and drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
Lewes first introduced its own currency in 1789, but this was discontinued in 1895 along with a number of other local currencies. Its reintroduction in September 2008 achieved national and international media coverage.
The Lewes Pounds is driven by three main considerations:
- Economic: According to the New Economics Foundation (2002), money spent locally stays within the community and is re-used many times, multiplying wealth and building resilience in the local economy.
- Environmental: Supporting local businesses and goods reduces the need for transport and minimises our carbon footprint.
- Social: By spending money in local outlets we can strengthen the relationships between local shopkeepers and the community. It also supports people finding new ways to make a living.
The Lewes Pound is designed to benefit the local economy and community by incentivizing and supporting local independent shops, increasing a sense of pride in the community, decreasing CO2 emissions and increasing economic resilience. Furthermore, the Lewes Pound aims to bring advantage to local traders by increasing footfall and local business activity, encouraging people to buy locally and increasing customer loyalty, highlighting the benefits of local shopping, bringing the local economy to people’s attention and attracting visitors to Lewes.
Lewes is a town in East Sussex, in the south of England that houses the county’s administrative functions. It is a civil parish and is the centre of the Lewes local government district. As of 2011 (latest census), the town of Lewes had a population of about 17,000 1.
Organisation and History
The Lewes Pound started out as a project from Transition Town Lewes. Since early 2007 hundreds of Lewes people have been getting together to discuss ideas on how to reduce oil dependence and put them into action. The working group dedicated to Business became intrigued by the idea of a complementary currency, after another of the Transition Towns had recently launched its own: the Totnes Pound. After months of preparation, the TTL currency sub-group was formed and Lewes Pound was officially launched in September, 2008. The local currency is only accepted by local and independent businesses in Lewes as part of an initiative to encourage consumption of local goods and services as well as help lower carbon emissions.
After the initial year’s trial came to an end and the notes were to be redeemed back for sterling, Transition Town Lewes held a review of how it was going. Many of the traders wanted to continue, and locals were enthusiastic about it. So in 2009 the group launched a complete set of Lewes Pound in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 21. This is still a demonstration project designed to last for 5 years.
The Lewes Pound is managed through the Lewes Pound Community Interest Company.
This organisation now has a coordinator funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, who will both promote higher uptake of the Lewes Pound among users and traders, at the same time as researching new ways of developing the Pound away from the 1:1 exchange with sterling.
a. The Lewes Pound in numbers:
As of 2013, there are more than 80 local shops accepting Lewes Pounds and trading them through their supply chains. There are about 20,000 Lewes Pound in circulation. There is currently no data available on how many people use the scheme.
b. Function and Unit of Account
c. Issuance – Backing
The Lewes Pound can be bought at a 1 to 1 exchange rate from Pound Sterling. The experience from the first issue shows that some of the currency is taken out of circulation (see ‘Leakage’ below). To demonstrate that this is a community initiative 5% is placed in the Live Lewes Fund, which supports local community organizations. Lewes Pound comes as paper currency only, in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 21. Notes are printed on high security paper with watermarks, serial numbers and other hidden security features.
d. Funding – Business Model
The Lewes Pound initiative is funded through support from local businesses, grants and leakage of Lewes Pounds. Leakage is the sale of Lewes Pounds to people who do not intend to spend them but wish to keep them for their collectable or souvenir value. If necessary, the Pound Sterling value of these Lewes Pounds, which are kept in a bank account, can be used to fund any future initiative.
How it works in practice?
Lewes Pound can be used this way.
- Buy Lewes Pounds at issuing points
- You can spend Lewes Pounds with any businesses and traders displaying the Lewes Pound sign. There is an online directory and interactive map of businesses accepting Lewes Pound.
- The best way to support the Lewes Pound and the community is to keep the Lewes Pound circulating. You can help to circulate Lewes Pounds by taking out a standing order for a regular supply of currency, asking for and accepting them in your change, paying suppliers, employees, friends and using them for your general shopping.
- Five pence (5p) of every Lewes Pound issued is pledged to the Live Lewes Fund.
- The money that goes into the Live Lewes Fund will only be used to fund local projects. It will not be used to fund the Lewes Pound initiative.
- Find fun and creative ways of spending Lewes Pounds for the benefit of Lewes.
New economics foundation (2002), The Money Trail, available at 2
The Lewes Pound, available at 3