Experience in other areas shows what a difference it makes to a local currency to have a supportive local authority. Happy to say that Birmingham has one!
Well – nothing’s formally endorsed, we’re not at that stage yet – but Ridhi, Matt, Tom and I met with Jacqui Kennedy (acting Strategic Director of Place) and Cllr Penny Hollbrook (Skills, Learning and Culture Cabinet member), John Walton who was representing Stewart Stacey (Procurement Cabinet member). All of them were very positive about the currency’s potential to help Birmingham’s economy to be stronger and benefit more people locally. They share our enthusiasm for it being something the whole city feels they can use, gave us some useful contacts and suggested forums where the idea could be raised.
Most importantly they committed to exploring the idea further and seeing whether some of the measures used in Bristol (e.g. accepting council tax and business rates in local currency) could be beneficial.
There’s lots of council talk about enabling and innovation at the moment – and about maximising local benefit from economic activity. Their readiness to explore the Birmingham Pound shows it’s real. We’re really pleased that we have Cabinet member and senior officer support – and particularly from people who are known for Making Things Happen.
In case you’re wondering why we’ve not launched yet, our biggest hurdle is putting the case to a properly regulated financial institution as to why it will further their cause to handle the digital accounts and transactions. We know this can be beneficial to credit unions, but it’s complex and there are always differences in governance, costs incurred etc that make it different in different cities. It also takes time and scarce volunteer capacity to put the case together and make the right contacts and get time in their diaries. We’re making progess – we can’t rush it, but thanks to dedicated volunteers and the positive, enabling attitude of Birmingham City Council, we should be able to present you with Plan A or Plan B in the next few months.