Residents in the Devon city of Exeter could become the first people in the UK to have part of their monthly salaries paid in local currency.
Locals are backing proposals to extend the Exeter Pound from paper notes to a digital online banking scheme in a bid to help boost local trade.
The Exeter Pound, which was only launched in September, is currently accepted by more than 130 traders in the city. Over £E30,000 is already in circulation.
Organisers have now set up a crowdfunding campaign to turn the scheme digital and allow people to transfer money online and pay for goods and services by sending text messages or by using a smartphone app.
They are looking to raise £6,500, which will be used to pay for the online banking software. It will also fund the creation of a new website which will include a directory of all the shops that accept the Exeter Pound and places where money can be exchanged across the city.
The currency was initially introduced to ensure that money spent in the city stays there.
Statistics show that for every £1 spent in a national retailers, just 35p remains in the local economy, but the same amount spent in an independent shop generates £1.73.
Supporters say a local currency also strengthens social identity and community cohesion.
Organisers of the Exeter Pound’s digital scheme say online payments will simplify trade between businesses, shorten supply lines and lead to a reduction in carbon footprints.
They now hope to match the success of Bristol, where around £1million of business was transacted in local currency last year.
They say some local residents have even agreed to receive a portion of their salary in Exeter Pounds, or pay some of their Council Tax in the currency if digital payment methods are introduced.
Daniel Hillier, who is one of the directors, said: “Shoppers tend to go to big name brands and we want to try to educate them to shop at the small, independent businesses.
“A digital local currency for Exeter: it’s the next big step for the Exeter Pound.”
“We’ve only had our own money for a short while, but we’re already seeing the benefits. Our paper notes are circulating around the city, bringing smiles, strengthening our local identity and keeping our money here in Exeter.
“It’s time to take the currency to the next level! We’re asking the community to help bring about this next milestone: a digital Exeter Pound.”
For more information on the Exeter Pound’s crowdfunding scheme, visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/exeter-pound-goes-digital