The Totnes Pound is a local currency launched in 2007 by the Transition Town Totnes Economics and Livelihoods group. It was the first of the so-called Transition Currencies, of which the Stroud Pound, Lewes Pound, Bristol Pound and Brixton Pound are part of.
The currency is backed by pound sterling and accepted in about 60 local and independent shops in the town – according to data of the latest guide from 2011 available online 1.
The Totnes Pound is aimed at strengthening and diversifying the local economy. Economic localisation is, according to the Transition Towns movement, a crucial aspect of the transition process. Local currency systems fall into this goal as they offer the opportunity to support the local economy whilst preventing money from leaking out 2
The anticipated benefits of the Totnes Pound are (Totnes Pound, 2008):
- To build resilience in the local economy by keeping money circulating in the community and building new relationships
- To get people thinking and talking about how they spend their money
- To encourage more local trade and thus reduce food and trade miles
- To encourage tourists to use local businesses
Totnes is a market town located in Devon County, UK. With a population of approx. 7,500, it has a remarkably large alternative community that has pioneered work on permaculture, organic farming and anti-Gm campaiging. This network of people provided the foundation for the establishment of the Transition Towns movement, which can best be described as a grassroots network of community concerned with peak oil and climate change. The movement was launched in Totnes in 2005 and it currently counts more than 1100 groups around the world busy building resilient local communities 3. Totnes was the first transition community to launch its own currency.
Organisation and History
The idea for the Totnes Pound came from a public lecture given by Bernard Lietaer at eh Schumacher College in 2006 on the future of money and the potential of complementary currencies. The Totnes Pound was brought it into existence in May 2007 through the Transition Town Totnes Economics and Livelihoods group. At the launch, phase 1, about 300 Totnes Pounds were gifted into circulation at a ‘Transition and economics’ event in the town with 18 shops accepted it. In phase 2 between July and December 2007 a stock of 6,000 Totnes Pounds were sold into circulation and 50 shops accepted it as means of payment. In January 2008 the old Totnes Pound notes were replaced with new t£1 notes, and the t£5, t£10 and t£20 notes were then added to the system. As of 2008, 75 local and independent shops accepted the local currency. The project received in 2008 a grant from Naturesave Trust (Totnes Pound, 2008).
In July 2009 it was decided that a proportion of the sterling currency held on deposit should be made available as interest free loans to businesses and projects within the community committed to rebuilding local resilience and reducing carbon emissions.
A new series of Totnes Pound was launched in 2014 with support of the Bristol Pound CIC.
The Totnes Pound has achieved a number of positive impacts, especially in the areas of awareness raising and inspiring others. Firstly the currency has generated a lot of media attention for the town as well as the Transition movement itself. It has also facilitated deeper conversations about peak oil, resilience, the wider monetary system and what complementary currencies can achieve. Finally it has inspired, and continues to do so, a number of other towns to implement their own currency such as, Lewes, Brixton or Bristol.
The system in numbers
The latest data available concerning the Totnes Pound is of 2008. At the time, there were about 6000 Totnes pound in circulation, and 75 shops accepting it. No data is available on the number of users (Totnes Pound, 2008).
Function and Unit of Account
The Totnes Pound acts as a unit of exchange between consumers and businesses, although the organisers encourage its use as a C2C and B2B currency. Its unit of account is pound sterling – one Totnes Pound equals one pound sterling.
Issuance – Backing
The Totnes Pound is baked by pound sterling that is held in a dedicated bank account at a local credit union. It is a paper only currency denominated in t£1, t£5, t£10 and t£20 notes. People can exchange their pound sterling for Totnes Pounds at 6 local exchange offices at a 1 to 1 exchange rate. There is no membership fee involved.
Taxation and Compliance
For tax and accounting purposes all Totnes Pound transactions should be treated the same as if they were made in pound sterling. So participation will not affect how people declare their revenues, expenses and any taxable profits. Likewise, VAT should be charged based on the price of goods as normal.
How does it work in practice?
People can buy Totnes Pounds through one of the 6 Issuing Points in Totnes at £1 = T£1. It can be spent at any of the 70+ shops or businesses in Totnes that display the “Accepted Here” logo. A great variety of products can be bought in Totnes Pounds: food, taxi rides, clothing, household goods, bike repairs, haberdashery, shoes, artists materials, books.
The list of traders accepting the notes, and the issuing points are marked with a star in the flier available here http://www.totnespound.org/#