In the week of the first birthday of the Brixton Pound, we investigate a new idea for the local economy
Music, cake and even photo-calls with the mayor were in place last night for the celebration of Brixton Pound’s first birthday at the Granville Arcade. But as plans for the co-operative council get underway, Lambeth is going to be experimenting with yet more alternative models for community living. The New Economics Foundation (nef), responsible for much of the impetus behind the Brixton Pound, has come up with a proposal to incentivise people to take on new responsibilities in their locality.
Nef, in cooperation with the Transition Towns network, has suggested the introduction of a loyalty scheme – much like the Tesco Clubcard or BA Air Miles – in which residents collect ‘points’ by carrying out actions beneficial to the community, such as recycling waste, or shopping at local businesses. Points can then be redeemed in exchange for public transport tickets, sustainable goods and services or cultural activities such as free cinema or gallery tickets.
Nef are also working with Social Trade Organisation (STRO), a Dutch NGO which has designed an online software payment scheme that could be adapted for a public loyalty scheme. According to nef, Cyclos “is a not-for-profit open source system that is dynamic and allows for continuous innovation as new currency models are adapted. Cyclos allows users to administer their accounts, view their transactions, and make (secure) payments via web access or mobile phone.” The STRO representative on the nef team has already designed another, very similar scheme in Rotterdam called the Nu Spaar Pass, a card which allows residents to collect points and trade them in for services.
Lambeth Council is in talks with nef, but is still considering different proposals and has not endorsed the idea yet. There is another public meeting on 23 September where residents are invited to “contribute and help shape the commissions’ final report”.
The Lambeth Mayor at last night's birthday celebrations
Quite a crowd gathered for the music on 'Fifth Avenue' in the arcade
'Re-imagining the high street' - the report released today
On the eve of Brixton Pound’s first birthday, Brixton has become a ‘clone town’, according to a survey released today by the new economics foundation. It studied the number of chain stores in towns and boroughs across Britain to highlight the importance of a diverse high street.
Despite its endorsement of the alternative currency, Brixton moved from ‘border’ status in 2005 to ‘clone’ status this year. The survey was conducted in 2009, before the additions of H&M, Starbucks and T-Mobile. It found that over half of Brixton’s high street shops are now chains. Nef created a scoring system which gave Brixton 50.5 points out of 100, with twons scoring over 65 classified as ‘home’ towns.
The report cites Philippe Castaing, owner of Opus and founder of Brixton Green, who has said that “Brixton is one of the most expensive high streets in London in terms of commercial rent, a major barrier for independent businesses.”
Nef first conducted the Clone Town survey in 2005, when Exeter came in as Britain’s blandest high street. This time, Cambridge took the bottom spot. But it wasn’t all bad news for South London – Streatham scored highly, with 76 on nef’s scale of 100, and was classed a ‘home’ town.
The survey is slightly skewed, however, because it only looks at the high street, not taking into account the number of independent shops elsewhere in the area. In Brixton, of course, many independent businesses have opened in the past year in the market, so it’s unclear whether it would remain a ‘clone’ town were the survey to be extended.
What do you think? Is Brixton ‘clone’ or ‘home’?
Lambeth council staff have been ‘on the road‘ in the past few weeks, spreading the gospel of the co-operative council. In each part of the borough, they set up stalls to provide information on the proposal and get residents’ views. But the effort to hear our views has so far seemed rather patronising – we had to put colourful plastic balls into differently labelled buckets and even stick pretty stickers underneath our favoured proposals, for goodness sake…
Colourful balls, plastic bins and labels that read, 'I'd like to be actively involved' and 'I am already actively involved'
Here’s hoping the public meeting on Wednesday will be a little more detailed and a little more demanding. See the event invitation on facebook or just read it here below:
“The co-operative council commission will be holding a public meeting as part of its evidence-gathering exercise. It will give residents the opportunity to give their views about our proposal to create a co-operative council and ask questions directly to commissioners.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending.”
I wonder who will attend this meeting. Will it be the usual suspects who take part in lots of community events already, or will people who wouldn’t normally take part be encouraged to go? Are you going? This phase is a real test of the co-operative council idea, as locals and the community groups have to feel part of it from the very beginning. It’s potentially a very exciting project, and it would be sad to see it go to waste.
Lambeth Council are going on a road trip this week – staff have been out and about in Lambeth talking to residents about what they think of the plans for a co-op council. And on Sunday they’re coming to Brixton…if you can bear to miss the World Cup/the build-up/the aftermath then here’s your chance to finally ‘have your say’.
From 10-4 today they’ll be in Norwood:
10am-12.15pm Norwood Rd – near Tulse Hill station
12.45-6pm Norwood Rd – near Tesco
And from 10-6 on Sunday they’ll be in Brixton:
10am-12.15pm Brixton tube
12.45-3pm Brockwell Park
3.30-6pm Brixton – Windrush Square