OXFORD could get its own currency by next year if an idea from local traders comes to fruition.

Adam O’Boyle and other campaigners hope they can introduce Oxford’s answer to the successful Bristol Pound scheme by next year.

The 27-year-old, who runs social enterprise the Turl Street Kitchen, said the new currency would be worth the same as sterling and accepted at participating retailers. He added it would encourage people to shop at independent traders and therefore help the local economy.

He said: “We think Oxford is great but we think it could be better. We have been really impressed with what’s happened in Bristol in terms of increasing trade, so we thought we would give it a shot.

“Our timeframe is currently nine to 12 months, so we’re looking possibly at having the notes printed in 2014.”

Mr O’Boyle said as well as notes in similar denominations to those seen in Bristol, which has £1, £5, £10 and £20 notes, a digital “text to pay” service could be introduced.

But he said his team had a long way to go before their dreams of the city’s new currency became a reality.

He said: “We’re really only at the feasibility stage at the moment. We’ve spoken to about a dozen traders about it, and we’re seeing interest from other groups.

“From my point of view, I run the Turl Street Kitchen, and I think it could be really valuable in the way we support our local supply chain.

“We imagine we would run a competition to design the notes, and we would probably be looking at getting about £150,000 of them printed initially.”

He said the £30,000 to £40,000 cost of printing the notes in Bristol had been funded through sponsorship and grants, and the running costs of the scheme were covered by a digital transaction fee.

He added: “It’s been very successful in Bristol, and we’ll obviously be taking the relative size of Oxford into account, but it has also worked well in places like Totnes, Lewes and Brixton, which are smaller than Oxford.”

ROX traders’ group spokes-man Graham Jones said: “I think we need to learn more, but any idea like this needs to be explored.”

Sandy Griffiths, who runs Jemini Flowers at The Covered Market, said: “If it would help to bring people into shops then I think it is a good idea.”

But Keith Gosling, manager of Cycle King in Cowley Road, said: “If it is just worth the same I d on’t see any incentive at all for me or a customer.”

How it would work

Customers would exchange their pounds for the new paper currency at traders in the city.
Alternatively, those seeking cashless payments would be asked to set up an online account, which they would transfer cash into.
Each shop would have a unique number the customer would send a text message to with the cost of the goods. This would remove the funds from their account.
The Oxford Pound could be converted back into sterling online or in person at the outlets which give out the currency.
The banknotes themselves would be printed by Delarue, the world’s largest commercial banknote printer.

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