OXFORD could get its own currency in a bid to protect independent businesses and support the economy in the wake of an influx of large chain stores at the new Westgate Centre.

The digital currency, introduced in Liverpool earlier this year, would only be accepted by participating local businesses.

It is aimed at keeping money in the local economy and encouraging people to support independent and locally-run firms.

A group of traders unsuccessfully tried to introduce the 'Oxford Pound' in 2013 but the name could be revived if the proposals are implemented by Oxford City Council.

The council's scrutiny committee has agreed to explore the scheme, which sees customers pay using the Oxford Pound via an app.

The leader of the city's Green Party, David Thomas, put the proposals to the council and said something had to be done to support local trade.

He said: "Oxford seems to have made a decision, a strategic move, to go for large multi-town retailers.

"The Westgate Centre seems to be at odds with the rest of the city, particularly areas such as Little Clarendon Street or Cowley Road.

"It wants to compete with the likes of Reading.

"Even with that decision, the city can still do something to help local retailers and this digital currency would protect the local economy and has worked well in Liverpool."

"It's great for local businesses to attract more people and it's also great for the consumers who get access to a fantastic range of offers."

The council's board member for finance, Ed Turner, said it was an 'interesting idea' and the scrutiny committee will consider the costs and benefits of introducing the currency.

Users would deposit money in pounds sterling using the app and this would converted into Oxford Pounds.

One Oxford would be worth one pound sterling but app users would get 10 per cent extra from each deposit – for example a deposit of £10 would give customers £11 to spend in local shops.

When customers convert back to sterling they would pay a 1.5 per cent commission.

The Liverpool Local Pound, which also uses the Colu app, already has more than 20,000 users since its launch in March.

More than £300,000 has circulated so far in the city and the number of businesses accepting the currency topped 100 in August.

According to the group Independent Liverpool, the community's 'thirst to support independents' has made it a success.

Rosie Jacobs, co-founder of Independent Oxford – a group promoting local businesses – said people in the city would respond well to a local currency and that it could be 'really important' for the future of local businesses.

She said: "We have been really hot on trying to increase the profile of independents, particularly with the Westgate centre opening.

"We have sold over 5,000 copies of our compendium book – a guide to independent firms in the city – so there's definitely an interest within the community in finding what's unique to Oxford.

"We have set up a voucher system, which can only be spent in independent stores, and that's a much smaller scale I know but there's enough interest to make a currency work."

Ms Jacobs, who runs gift shop A Rosie Life in Magdalen Road said traders had 'mixed opinions' about their futures amid the Westgate opening.

She said some hoped other areas of the city, such as Cornmarket and High Street, would become an 'independent quarter' if the council lowered rents and rates.

The city council's head of communications, Mish Tullar, said: "The most recent case study is Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds, which raised the footfall across the whole city by about five per cent.

"Given that the Westgate entrance is about 200 metres from areas such as the Covered Market I'm sure it will bring more visitors to all parts of the city.

He added: "Again when you look at Leeds a number of independents utilised the vacant spaces left elsewhere in the city, and I think this is likely to happen in Oxford."