6: Responsible localised leadership in Bristol


Mayor George Ferguson’s pledge to make Bristol “happier, healthier and more sustainable” was the cornerstone of his election campaign.

Soon after his election he announced his decision to take his salary in the UK’s first city-wide local currency – Bristol Pounds.

This local currency is run as a not-for-profit social enterprise by the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union.

Bristol Pounds are purchased with sterling and can be spent with any of the more than 500 businesses that have signed up. The scheme operates online banking and a text message payment system, and traders are even able to buy supplies in the currency, helping to create a “virtuous economic cycle.”

The Bristol Pound was launched in September last year in order to:
* support Bristol’s independent businesses,
* strengthen its economy
* and keep the city’s high streets diverse and distinctive.

Ferguson said: “I am a very strong advocate for our independent traders and businesses and as mayor, am committed to helping them flourish and grow. A strong independent retail sector is good for the local supply chain, helps boost new business growth and boosts the city’s economy.”

Bristol Pound director Chris Sunderland explains that “Most of the money spent in a city, leaves almost as soon as it’s spent. It goes up to the financial institutions and gets lost. What people can be sure of with Bristol Pounds is that they’re circulating in the city and that’s where they’ll stay.”

Julian Rose comments: “Compare that with the spirit of some politicians currently in the news and one begins to get a sense of what responsible localised leadership could achieve: not only a total turnaround in the fortunes of communities all over the UK – but a turn around in the entire outlook on the future.

“The future might actually look more promising than the present! A future where more and more areas declare themselves “Politician Free Zones” and set about managing their destinies with a distinct spring in their step”.