Payroll Local enables Lambeth Council staff to receive ‘Brixton Pounds’ – a ‘complementary currency’ that encourages people to support local businesses and charities – directly in their pay packets.
Launched in 2009, the Brixton Pound (B£) is the UK’s largest ‘complementary currency’. It works a bit like a loyalty card for local and independent businesses: you buy Brixton Pounds for their equivalent value in sterling, which can then be redeemed in local shops or donated to local good causes.
The idea is to strengthen the community by encouraging people to spend locally – helping independent businesses thrive, lowering the area’s carbon footprint and supporting small grassroots charities and community groups. Users are rewarded with exclusive discounts and special offers, as well as the good feeling that comes from doing their bit to help their community.
In September 2011 the Brixton Pound launched as an electronic currency, allowing B£ holders to pay by text as well as in notes. Payroll Local, a project led by the new economics foundation (nef), together with Lambeth Council and QOIN (which provides the e-currency platform), enables the council’s staff to receive some of their salary in electronic B£ – a first for local currencies in the UK.
The system makes it easy for employees to use and discover new local and independent businesses, as well as offering a convenient way to donate to local charities and social enterprises that may not be reached by corporate payroll giving schemes.
Since the Payroll Local project was launched over 60 staff at Lambeth Council have taken some Brixton Pounds in their wages and a further 800 people have signed up to use Brixton Pounds by text. Over B£150,000 has been spent (or texted!) in Brixton.
People who regularly used the Brixton Pound reported a number of positive outcomes. Over 70% of regular users said they had got to know business owners and felt more proud of their local area. Most users said they had tried out new businesses in Brixton because of the Brixton Pound and nearly 90% said it felt good to be spending in a way the reflected their values.
Alongside the project the new economics foundation (along with academic partners) conducted some research on using money and complementary currencies. The report can be downloaded here.
As of February 2014, around 250 businesses in Brixton accept paper B£ and more than 160 have pay-by-text accounts.
nef was awarded £83,250 in the first round of the Innovation in Giving Fund to build and pilot the Payroll Local system.