|The Lewes Pound|
Lewes first introduced its own currency in 1789, but this was
discontinued in 1895.
In September 2008 the £1 was reintroduced with a run of 10,000. A further tranche 20,000 was released and finally 3,000. These notes were exchangeable at some 120 shops, pubs and small businesses in Lewes area.
On 3 July 2009, it was announced that the scheme was to be extended. New notes of £1 (2 versions) £5, £10 and £21 were issued and the original notes withdrawn.
The notes are printed on traditional banknote paper and have a number of security features including unique numbering, watermarks
foil impressions and heat mark.
Was it a good idea?
A big question, the winners are certainly note collectors.
It also created a lot of publicity for Lewes when launched and created employment for the
makers of the notes. The first of which were printed in Totnes, hardly in keeping with trading locally.
Even the company who printed them went bust shortly after the first delivery, proving the old adage 'license to print money" - wrong. The cost of each note was around 30 pence, it has been said this money could have been better spent.
The Lewes Pound and the Transition Towns movement have received criticism for a failure to address the needs of the wider Lewes population, especially lower socio-economic groups. Such local currency initiatives have been more widely criticized in light of limited success in stimulating new spending in local economies and as an unrealistic strategy to reduce carbon emissions.
It is now very rare to be offered Lewes pounds in your change as a large number of outlets only accept them reluctantly as it adds to there accounting burden will little perceived return.
The new notes are of very high quality but their release did not stimulate anything like the publicity of the original launch.
The organisers pledged to 'local projects' 5p per note on everyone exchanged back into sterling. They have printed this on every note and will have 5 years (the validity of the notes) to reflect on whether they should have checked if this was acceptable to outlets taking them. It was not and at an interesting meeting in the 'Lewes Arms' were forced to drop the idea.
During 2009 Brixton and Stroud also introduced there own currencies. Brixton introduced mobile pay by text service in September 2011, worth a look.