A businesswoman is calling for opinions for a new Machynlleth closed currency to support small businesses.

Elizabeth Summerfield from Dolgellau is seeking local input regarding a potential launch of a Machynlleth currency, similar to the Bristol Pound, to encourage internal local trade.

Elizabeth, who runs a technology company, put her proposal to Machynlleth Town Council at the latest full council meeting last week 26 February, stating: “This currency won’t pay a mortgage or put fuel in a car but it could lessen the amount of money you spend on everyday things like food and clothes.

Elizabeth has called her vision Project Prosperity
Elizabeth has called her vision Project Prosperity (Project Prosperity)

“Anyone involved in the scheme has a small allocation of the currency to spend locally- once it starts being used it floods the community with a local currency to trade with one another.

“If you as a business are buying materials and reselling them as products to those paying GBP, you generate real income that way.

“I want to start a pilot project, creating discussions with relevant groups and a public consultation to see if this is really wanted, and how it could work best for Machynlleth businesses.”

She is looking for local opinions to feed into her ‘feasibility study’, which will involve an analysis of other alternative currencies and economic modeling.

Elizabeth’s idea came about when she walked into the Community Hwb in central Mach late last year. Covering the walls were mind maps from community meetings about what Machynlleth residents would like to see for the town, including one bubble that read, ‘local currency/ exchange of goods and services’.

Elizabeth already runs a successful three-year-old closed-circuit online economy for writers and illustrators called Salt and Pepper, enabling online communities to trade between themselves, ‘connecting the energy you spend creating something to the value of the online currency’.

Meanwhile, like many areas of the UK the cost of living crisis, national debt, and the impact of the pandemic has meant households are struggling with a 20 per cent drop in living standards compared to five years ago, with 40 per cent of Brits having a side hustle.

High streets including Machynlleth’s are also struggling with this impact- with 12 per cent of shops sitting empty.

She said: “I realised in the Hwb that maybe we need a real-life currency like this in Machynlleth. The only thing that success depends on is the uptake of the currency, making it have value.

“Other calls in the Hwb were ‘support for local tradespeople’ and ‘help to make businesses thrive’ and I realised the Salt and Pepper technology could be used for good somewhere like Machynlleth.”

Town Councillor Anne Macgarry however pointed out during the meeting: “We had a closed-circuit economy attempted here several years ago and it didn’t work at all.”

Whilst Councillor Michael Williams said: “I agree local businesses should be buying from one another, but the products have to be affordable to the general public. So many people go out of town to shop because it’s cheaper- it’s a real shame as many don’t want to but feel forced.”

In response, Elizabeth said: “I’ve investigated the previous attempt and agree it’s an issue. The sticking point from what I can gather was the adoption of the currency- people actually joining in and accepting it as currency. It’s important to learn from that.”

To get involved with Elizabeth’s consultation and receive updates about her project called Project Prosperity, join her mailing list here.