'Payment in kind' is replacing the pound: Peck, link and pond gain popularity as alternative currencies

A NEW range of currencies has developed rapidly in Britain over the past year. With idiosyncratic names such as the peck, the link and the pond they are now used regularly by thousands of people.

International currency dealers will never have heard of them, but they provide an alternative to the cash economy, help the poor and the unemployed, encourage the use of skills and try to rekindle a sense of community.

Almost 200 Local Exchange Trading System (Lets) schemes have been set up, more than three- quarters of them in the past year. Some have only a dozen members while the largest, in Manchester, has 300.

Anyone who joins a scheme offers skills or services, such as plumbing, gardening or the use of a photocopier, to other members. A price is agreed in whatever notional currency has been adopted, but no money changes hands.

The system is more ambitious than straight barter. The provider receives a credit on his or her account kept by a local organiser and a debit is marked up against the user. The person in credit can then set this against other services.

In Southwark, south London, a scheme set up in August adopted the 'peck' as its currency because the area includes Peckham. Skills on offer include carpentry, sewing, piano lessons, and translation.

Donnachadh McCarthy, the organiser, is offering counselling, holistic massage, cleaning and typing. He is having his Christmas pudding made by another member of the scheme rather than buying it from a supermarket.

He said: 'It is a system to recreate a community economy which we were losing because of multinational companies and big supermarkets. Money which comes into Southwark is used once and then leaves via the banks which use it to finance projects elsewhere.'

Southwark is an inner-city area where poverty is rife and unemployment high, and the aim is for people out of work to use their skills and those short of money to pay for services by exchange.

In west Wiltshire, where the currency is the 'link', 200 people have joined the scheme since it was set up three years ago. The services on offer reflect the rural character of the area and include transport, tree surgery and gardening.

Daniel Johnson, a painter and decorator and freelance writer, is the scheme's 'bank manager', recording debits and credits. Like many members he uses his skills to earn both conventional money and links so that he has purchasing power and access to services.

In Barnes, a middle-class area of south-west London, a scheme is being set up by Perry Walker, who works for the New Economics Foundation which promotes green economics. About 25 people have shown an interest but their motives tend to be different from those in Southwark.

'In areas of high unemployment schemes are a way of using and developing skills and feeling that these skills are valued, but in Barnes the attraction is more the sense of community that it creates between people,' he said.

The currency in Barnes is to be the 'pond', after the pond on the common, which has inevitably produced jokes about what 'the pond in your pocket' will be worth. The answer, as in most Lets schemes, is around a conventional pound.

Meanwhile, the Inland Revenue is keeping a wary eye on Lets. If done on a small scale, such deals are classified as 'social favours' and are not taxable, but if they become regular they must be declared. It is unlikely that tax officials will accept having the wiring fixed in their offices in lieu of payment.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam