Category Archives: Social enterprise

Cardiff Pound – news at last!

Exciting news!

This time last year I was spending quite a bit of time talking to everyone who would listen about the benefits that a local currency could bring to Cardiff. I firmly believed that a Cardiff Pound would be a real boost for Cardiff’s local economy, and having watched the Bristol Pound go from strength to strength over the last 12 months, I’m now even more convinced  of the case for a local currency.

It was pretty clear that there was a lot of goodwill and support around to set up a local currency, and in a perfect world I would have liked to have been able to capitalise on that to have a Cardiff Pound up and running right now. Indeed I did make some brave predictions about how soon we would have everything ready to launch – however, in my excitement and enthusiasm I rather forgot about the necessity to earn a living in the meantime, ha! Then in September I began a new job and it became clear that with the best will in the world the Cardiff Pound would have to take a back seat until I was settled in.

So take a back seat it did, but for far longer than I had hoped – every time I could see a breather coming up, a new project appeared. Which has been great for my overdraft, but it has also meant that a few weeks ago, I had reluctantly come to the conclusion that if I wanted to see the Cardiff Pound happen, I would have to hand it over to someone who had the time and energy that it deserved. This was a hard decision but at the end of the day I want the Cardiff Pound to happen more than I want to be the person to make it happen, if that makes sense. Though I do quite badly want to be that person as well!

Which is why I am very, VERY excited this afternoon because after having some conversations with the lovely people that run Cadwyn Housing Association (and who, for their sins,  also have the misfortune to employ me part time) I have been given the go-ahead to work on the Cardiff Pound for one day a week from September! My brief will be to put the groundwork in to bring the project to the stage where it is ready to go, and, I hope, to create enough momentum that the Cardiff Pound becomes a reality.

This is brilliant news! I am incredibly grateful to Cadwyn for seeing the potential of a local currency, and also for putting their faith in me to take the project forward to the next stage; and at the risk of doing a Gwyneth, I’m also really grateful to those of you out there who have taken such a patient interest in the Cardiff Pound and have encouraged me to keep chipping away  – you know who you are!

So – next steps…I shall be reviving my Cardiff Pound To Do list which includes talking to the New Economics Foundation; more conversations with the Bristol and Brixton Pounds; putting together a website with information for local people and local businesses; investigating cashless payment systems; keeping you all updated via @cardiffpound; oh, and panicking just a little bit at what suddenly feels like a big, scary and frankly overwhelming task. Bring it on!

On Credit Unions

I know, I know – I am spoiling you with three posts already this week, including the rather popular one on my total failure in the area of sleeping attire – however I just wanted to do a quick lunchtime post on something that almost passed me by.

Today is, drum roll please….International Credit Union Day! Do not adjust your sets, this aims to be a short and informative post, on something that can be a real benefit to YOU and the community you live in.

There are roughly 500 credit unions throughout the UK. There are some differences, but they all work along broadly similar lines – that is, they manage savings, and offer loans, to a group of people who have something in common. That something is usually, but not always a geographical area.

For the purposes of this article I’m going to talk about the geographically based credit unions, and why I believe people should consider them alongside banks when looking for loans,  current accounts and savings.



Credit Unions offer loans to their members, which do not have any hidden charges or secret costs, nor will they attempt to bamboozle you into taking expensive and useless loan protection. Interest rates are often lower than those advertised elsewhere, and credit unions will usually be happy to lend relatively small amounts, say £100,  whereas banks will often have a far higher minimum loan.

Credit Unions tend to be more ready to lend to those who are refused funds elsewhere. They will want to work closely with you to make sure you can afford to repay what you have borrowed, as well as meeting your other living costs, and they may ask that you save – even a very small amount – before being considered for a loan.

Current Accounts

Many credit unions offer basic current accounts, and again, these are available to those who are excluded from traditional bank facilities. These accounts will usually have far fewer bells and whistles than a bank account, for example debit cards may not be readily available. However, an account with a credit union may well offer other useful features, eg a ‘jam jar’ account to immediately ring fence the amounts needed for essential payments such as rent, when the account receives a credit. This can be a lifesaver for certain vulnerable groups of people, for example young people leaving care; adults with limited understanding of money management; or even just people who are having to manage their money for the first time due to the introduction of direct payments.


I am lucky at the moment in that I can afford to save a small amount every month. I choose to save with my credit union -the biggest selling point for me being that I know where my money is going – and more importantly where it’s NOT going. It’s not investing in the arms trade, being used to shore up dodgy food speculation practices, or buying some corporate fat cat a yacht. Instead, my savings are being used to make small loans to people in my local community. Probably to people who are excluded from traditional lending institutions, who are at risk of aggressive targeting by the frankly despicable payday loan companies.

So, there you have it. If you have been refused help or even not allowed to open an account at your bank, consider a credit union. If you need a loan, or know someone who does, please steer them away from payday lenders and get them to talk to a credit union. And if you are lucky enough to be a saver, please also think about saving with your local CU, because your money will be being used to help those in your local community.

You can find your local credit union here, and if you live in Cardiff, you can check out Cardiff and Vale Credit Union here.

Here endeth my speedy lunchtime post – back to work I go!

Disclaimer – I haven’t been asked to write this post, and I’m not receiving any incentives to do so.



On Foodbanks

There’s a food collection in work at the moment, for the Cardiff Foodbank. They do amazing work, collecting, sorting, and handing out food to those most in need in Cardiff and this post is not meant to be negative about foodbanks in any way shape or form. But – hello – last time I checked it was 2013. That’s TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN, people, and we are lucky enough to live in a first world country. What is going on if people cannot afford to feed themselves and their families? And if the UN is officially ‘alarmed‘ by the situation in the UK?

Seems to me as if there are three problems here. Firstly – wages. Yes – isn’t it wonderful that we have a minimum wage, currently £6.19 an hour.  Except it’s not actually enough to live on, is it – that would be £7.45 per hour, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. But we wouldn’t want to put the minimum wage up to a Living Wage, would we now – think of all those lovely multinationals who wouldn’t take twats like Iain Duncan Smith out to lunch any more if we did such a thing.

Secondly – benefits. (Just a little reminder here in case you’re a Daily Mail reader that only 2.6% of benefit claimants are unemployed. Or to  put it another way, only 3% of benefit spend goes on Jobseekers Allowance.) But jobseekers, DLA, attendance allowance, incapacity benefit – the point is, none of them do what they are supposed to do, which is to give people a reasonable amount of food, warmth and dignity. Of course, a fair bit of the benefit bill goes on income support and housing benefit, and another big chunk of HMRC spend goes on Tax Credits, so that those people on minimum wage can actually afford to live. Hang on, couldn’t that be solved by raising the minimum wage a bit so that the state didn’t have to top up their earnings? Oh – sorry – we couldn’t POSSIBLY raise minimum wage – see Iain Duncan Smith and his lunches, above.

So that’s one side of the coin – people don’t have enough money to buy food.

The third problem comes from the other side – the food prices themselves. Now, I know everyone seems to worship at the magically correcting free market altar, and I know on paper that market forces, rational expectations and the like should all make for a wonderfully self-levelled world. Which I suppose they might, if everyone just consumed what they needed. But once greed becomes a factor, the idea of free market economics providing for a fair and happy world for us all just goes right up the swanny. You might have heard of ‘food speculation’ (but depending on which newspaper you read, you might well not have – it’s something of a dirty little secret for the people in the know).  Basically, food speculation is bankers betting on the price of food, to make cash. So some people come out of it very well indeed, thank you – like Barclays, who are estimated to make up to £340 million a year from gambling on our food supplies. But most people don’t. Those who are hardest hit are the food producers, and next on the list is anyone for whom food expenditure makes up most or all of their income. Which is a hell of a lot of people in the developing world – and, because we seem to be regressing here in our supposed world leading country, more and more people here in the UK too.

What can we do about it? First and foremost, please give to your local Foodbank. Just a couple of extra items in your trolley is going to make a real difference to someone – it could mean a child comes home to a hot meal for instance. Secondly – don’t vote Tory – they really are a cliquey club of rich little schoolboys who don’t give a shit about you, me, or our kids, as long as they’re all right. Thirdly – check out Bankers Anonymous to help those poor wankers – sorry bankers – quit their gambling addiction. And finally, if you want to know more about food speculation, the best and clearest information is to be found on the World Development Movement’s website, along with ways in which you can  put pressure on the government here and at a European level, to regulate betting on food prices in global markets.

I guess I’m thanking my lucky stars that it’s not us at the food bank. Probably you should be too.