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“It’s not just about economics, it’s about the community.” Is a local currency really the answer to the ever-declining high street?

Kingston has recently joined the country’s greats, Brixton and Bristol, with its implementation of a local pound as a means to benefit the local area. But why do local councils opt for this shift? And will it really benefit the local community in the long-run?

“Not a replacement currency”
Andrew Connolly, 55, co-founder of the Kingston Pound assures us that this is not some step towards anarchism:
“We’re not from the transitionist movement. We’re not trying to replace the British Pound; rather, we want to work alongside it.”

The local currency is an attempt to revive the community, the municipal togetherness that is often lost in a big city such as London. As little boutiques and quaint market stalls attract admiring glances and curious ramblers, they do little to entice the ever-disappearing money squanderers, instead receiving sympathetic waves as their would-be customers stroll over the road to Tesco’s.

An unemployed march during The Great Depression

“Anarchist roots”
The idea of a local currency is reminiscent of the idealistic visions of the German socialist cum communist Karl Marx and the Russian Anarchist Pyotyr Kroptkin, both of whom dreamt of communes with their own set values and ways of life. Connolly, however, is adamant that the scheme has no party ties:
“The project has no political affiliation. We have an appeal with lots of different parties. But if someone said ‘they’re with the LibDems’ or ‘they’re with the Conservatives’ they’d be wrong.”

“The Great Depression”
Whilst the scheme is still in the developmental stages today, it can actually be traced back to the Great Depression of the 1930’s when the U.S. Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in 1928, which led to financial collapse of the US and Northern Europe. Local currencies, or ‘scrip’, were created as a plan to increase employment, but the recovery of the economy saw these schemes shut down by central banks and governments.

“Commodity or Social bond?”
Economist Ann Pettifor explained in the book Just Money that this overprinting of money as merely a commodity reduces the power of money. Instead, it should be used as a social bond based on trust. Connolly’s own views lie parallel to Pettifor’s, who agreed with her when he said:
“It’s not just about economics; it’s about the community really. If you can create a bit more resilience in your economy, it might just create a few more jobs. There’s a lot of emotion involved in the scheme.”

“The future of money”
Greece, the country which has been drowned in austerity of late, has itself set up local currencies that have kept several towns and cities afloat amidst a crisis. Economist and author of The Future of Money, Bernard Lietaer, proposed that local monetary systems were vital within a future of joblessness, community breakdown, an ageing society, the conflict between short-term financial thinking and long-term sustainability, and the threat of inflation.

John Donne

The ultimate goal is to preserve the distinct characteristics that make Kingston great. Surbiton, New Malden, Coombe and Chessington all hope to benefit from the scheme, but the underlying issue of a fragile economy will always threat even the strongest of communities.

“Do we need the K£?”
In an ideal world, the Kingston Pound would not be necessary. Shoppers would not have to scrimp and save, price matching the big four supermarkets and sacrificing the creature comforts of friendly shopkeepers and personalised shopping visits. The Kingston Pound is sure to achieve one thing though, and that will be the irrefutable pride of a community that was perhaps almost lost.

As John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”


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