Bristol Pound note
Organisers of the Bristol Pound currency are asking locals to come up with a design for the note denominations.

Bristol could soon have its own currency called the "Bristol Pound".

A group of independent traders in the British city are behind launching the currency, along with the support of the council and a credit union.

The idea behind the scheme is to keep wealth generated in Bristol within the city rather than being lost to off-shore financial institutions.

While there are other local currencies established in the UK, this will be the first which can be used to pay local business taxes.

Those behind the scheme say the currency will directly address "serious and growing inequity, particularly in deprived social groups" by ensuring money spent in such areas does not get funnelled out of communities "via the usual financial systems".

Ciaran Mundy, the director of the Bristol Pound, explained the concept behind the currency.

"Big companies just hoover up money from a local area," he told the BBC.

"Money goes into their financial system and typically out into London and into the offshore sector."

The only rule is that Bristol Pounds must stay in the city - the idea is to drive more business to independent and local traders.

"It is designed to support Bristol's independent businesses, strengthen the local economy, keep our high streets diverse and distinct, helping build a strong community," according to the scheme's website.

If ten Bristol Pounds are spent at a Bristol business, they must use it to pay their suppliers or staff. In turn, those companies will have to use the money within the local economy.

More than 100 businesses have already signed up to adopt the currency including a family bakery, the Tobacco Factory Theatre, the Ferry company and multiple small cafes.

Bristol will print its own notes in £1, £5, £10 and £20 denominations. One Bristol Pound will be equivalent to £1 sterling.

People can open a bank account with the Bristol Credit Union, which is administering the scheme, and for every pound sterling they deposit, they will be credited one Bristol Pound.

The money can then be cashed, or used electronically to pay bills online or with a mobile phone device.

Bristol Pounds are not intended to fully replace the pound sterling but are designed to work alongside it.

But because the local currency is not legal tender like the pound sterling, accepting the Bristol Pounds will be voluntary.

Locals in Bristol are being asked to help design the new Bristol Pound notes. The organisers have already created the logo and produced security features to counter forgery.

The notes will adopt a silver hologram design, a gold foil strip with serial numbers embedded, and other features which are impossible to replicate.

But it will be up to the locals to decide whose face should appear on the notes.

Locals can submit their ideas on the Bristol Pound's website. The competition will run until the end of February, and the notes will be introduced in May.

Typically, most local currencies that have launched in the UK have remained small.

In 2006, the Totnes Pound was the first to launch in Devon and has 70 traders involved.

The Stroud Pound launched in Gloucestershire in September 2009 but to date no more than 30 firms are taking the currency.

But organisers of the Bristol Pound said they have two major points of difference that will work to their advantage: online banking and council support.