Caroline Lucas is to set up a working group to investigate the feasibility of giving Brighton and Hove its own currency.

The Brighton Pavilion MP met with business leaders yesterday to discuss plans for a Brighton pound.

Representatives from Wired Sussex, Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership and the Tourism Alliance heard Tony Greenham of the New Economics Foundation outline the possible benefits of the scheme.

Mr Greenham said the complementary currency would be purchased with sterling at a one to one exchange rate. The sterling received would be held by the East Sussex Credit Union, a licensed deposit taker with assets of more than £1.3 million.

Once converted the currency could not be converted back into sterling or any other currency. It is not expected that national chains would take part in the scheme.

Dr Lucas said: “It could work in a similar way to the new Bristol pound, which involves an electronic payment system and strong participation by the local credit union and the council.

“Other proposals could include ‘time banking’, an initiative which promotes social inclusion by enabling people to ‘trade’ their time rather than their money so someone who does an hour’s painting and decorating, for example, can use the credits earned to buy an hour’s gardening from someone else.

“There’ll now be much more consultation and discussion, with a small working group looking into how best to take the process forward.”

Claire Ottewell, the chairman of the city’s tourism alliance, said a possible stumbling block for her members is that most of them belong to multiple chains.

She said: “The jury is out on the idea. I will askmymembers if they want to take it further.”

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat said that a complementary currency scheme could give businesses access to finance through the East Sussex Credit Union.

He said: “I think the idea has potential. Whether it is as a business- to-business currency or for shoppers needs to be looked at. If it can work anywhere it can work here because there is such a strong sense of place and we have the technological expertise to make it happen.”

See The Argus's recent feature about the Lewes pound four years on.