SOUTHAMPTON could soon have its own currency under a radical plan to help boost local traders.
It could mean the city’s most famous celebrities such as legendary striker Matt Le Tissier, pop star Craig David or comic genius Benny Hill could have their faces on the notes.
Organisers say the scheme would encourage shoppers to support the local economy, instil civic pride and even help cut carbon emissions.
The “Southampton pound”
would be a compliment to the British pound, but could only be used at participating shops, cafes and pubs in the city.
It comes just weeks after plans to launch a bank for the people of Hampshire – dubbed HantsFund – were revealed by the Daily Echo.
Business leaders yesterday said the Southampton pound was another example of an innovative local solution to the global economic meltdown.
Last September, the East Sussex town of Lewes shot to national attention when they launched their own currency.
The Lewes one pound note is made from 75 per cent recycled materials and decorated with the 18th century radical thinker Thomas Paine on one side and Lewes Castle on the other.
Shoppers there can now exchange their sterling for the special currency to spend at more than 130 shops and pubs in the town.
The idea was this week floated by a newly formed environmental group called Transition Southampton.
The group, which launched in November, is a local branch of the global Transition Towns network that aims to build community resilience to the challenges of rising oil and energy prices and climate change.
Transition Southampton founding member Ziggy Woodward said: “It might work better as say Bitterne pounds or Swaythling pounds, but it is an idea to be looked at certainly and something that would get people excited.
“It would keep money circulating in the local community, instead of being taken out of the city by big multinational companies.
“People would be encouraged to only use local services in Southampton, or parts of Southampton, so they won’t have to jump into their cars and travel out of the city.”
The Lewes scheme hit problems it its first few days when thousands of the single pound notes ran-out, with only a few of them making their way into the local economy.
Many residents bought them as souvenirs, while some fell into the hands of collectors or were sold on eBay for up to £30 a piece.
A second print run was ordered and there are now 25,000 notes in circulation. It is scheduled to circulate until August 30, when a review will be carried out into the success of the scheme.
Business Southampton spokesman Grant Woodall said: “Businesses and organisations are looking at new and more innovative ways that they can get money back into the regional economy.
“Historically, these ideas would have been unheard off, but this is another example of people in the city realising that even with Government intervention, finances are not flowing in the city as they should be.”
In Totnes, Devon, a local currency is now into its second year, while in the US town of Berkshire, Massachusetts, more than one million “Berkshares”
have gone into circulation since it started a couple of years ago.
Ms Woodward added: “You just have to look at what has been achieved in Lewes and we can take it as an example and build on it.”