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Exmouth LETS Website

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Exmouth LETS uses a virtual currency, called the Cockle. All services are priced at the rate of 10 Cockles per hour. For the purposes of pricing goods, 1 Cockle can be regarded as the rough equivalent of £1. To help you start trading, new members are credited with 5 Cockles. Your account does not need to be in credit for you to trade.


 

 

 

 

 

FAQ

 

What is a LETS system?

 

LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System. A LETS gives individuals and groups the opportunity to trade goods and services without using money. In practice, a LETS system is based on a Directory of offers and requests. Members search the Directory for goods and services they want to offer or receive, then contact each other to trade.

 

Members can contact each other by telephone, email or in person at trading and social events. These events are advertised on the Upcoming Events part of the website, and members are sent details about a week before the event. Exmouth LETS also shares a stall with Transition Town Exmouth at the local Farmers’ Market.

 

Transactions are paid for in local currency – in Exmouth, the local currency is called the Cockle. Ten Cockles represent one hour of a member’s time. The transactions and balances on each account are recorded by the system. Exmouth LETS works as a closed system – when all the account balances are combined, they add up to zero.

 

 

Is LETS a new idea?

 

No. Over the years, many communities around the world have started local currency systems. The first British LETS was started in Norwich in 1985. Since 1991, there has been a huge increase in the number of LETS in Britain. There are currently over 450, with new ones starting up all the time.

 

 

Who can join Exmouth LETS?

 

Anyone over 18 can join Exmouth LETS, whether you are one person with some skills or time to offer, a member of a family with various skills between you, a community group or a local business. You can also offer goods for sale - like that old sewing machine that’s just gathering dust in the loft, maybe. Or you can hire out items that you use infrequently - like a ladder, drill or cement mixer, for instance. Whatever you have - skills, goods or simply time - you can convert it into Cockles, to spend on something you need.


What goods and services are available?

 

The variety of goods and services offered is limited only by the people who join. The more members we have, the more diverse the Directory becomes, and the more the system provides basic necessities, the faster it grows. LETS trading allows people to realise the abundance around them, and to meet their daily needs with little or no cash. Participation by community groups and businesses, as well as individuals, is encouraged. If you are thinking about joining the system, you can browse the Public Directory to see if the goods and services currently on offer appeal to you.


What can I offer?

 

Most people have the same initial reaction: ‘I don’t have anything to offer that anyone would want’. One of the many purposes of LETS is to help people recognise that they have a great deal to offer, and that every individual is a vital asset to the community. Your offers might include: baking, knitting or sewing, repairs, dog walking, waiting in for tradespeople, childcare, assisting an older person, helping someone to lay out a garden or prepare a CV, growing organic produce, offering your car or van for lifts or removals... the list is limited only by your imagination!


How do I find what I need, and how do others find me?

 

All members provide details of the items or services they are offering and requesting, and these are entered into the Directory. You are able to change or add to your entries at any time via the Exmouth LETS website. Every few months, the directory is printed out and sent out to members without internet access. Offers and requests are organized under subject headings such as Domestic and Family, Repairs and Maintenance, etc. It is also useful to indicate your level of expertise – A=Amateur, E=Experienced, Q=Qualified, S= Semi-skilled.


Do I need to find a direct exchange?

 

No. The purpose of a LETS system account is to, say, allow you to build a shed for one person, and buy a sweater from another. Of course, direct exchanges are fine, too.


Who sets the prices?

 

The terms of each transaction are agreed by the provider and receiver, as in a traditional economic system. No member is under any obligation to trade unless they are happy to do so, and all transactions are the responsibility of the parties concerned. The key difference is that members may not charge sterling for their services, or ask for more than the standard rate of 10 Cockles per hour, which applies to everyone.

However, if a service involves paying for materials, travel, or other out-of pocket expenses, the provider can charge for these items in sterling. For example, a car repair may cost £15 cash for parts, plus 30 Cockles for the work. For the purposes of pricing goods, 1 Cockle can be regarded as the rough equivalent of £1.


How do I avoid disputes?

 

If a transaction is likely to involve a large cash sum (e.g. for decorating materials) you are recommended to agree this in writing using the trading contract downloadable from the website. We also recommend that you satisfy yourself as to your trading partner’s qualifications, insurance and CRB status where applicable – for example when requesting childcare or health-related services.

In the event of a dispute, the Core Group will endeavour to resolve the problem. This may involve referring the parties concerned to our Arbitration Panel.


What if my account balance is negative? Could I get into debt?

 

In a LETS system, spending actually creates wealth, which can then be spent by others, regardless of your current account balance. A negative balance simply means that you have a commitment to make a contribution in the future. Money is a scarce resource: if one person spends more than they can afford to repay, someone else has to lose. Local currency is different: Cockles are created at will by members going into commitment with one another. In the same way, when you receive Cockles, you don’t deprive anyone else.

 

Exmouth LETS is a non profit-making organisation, so no interest is charged on debit amounts, and credits have no value unless they are used. It is a closed system (i.e. only members can use it) and there must always be some members with a commitment to pay (i.e. in 'debt') for trading to take place. Having a commitment to pay is a great incentive for members to start trading, so with LETS, being ‘in debt’ is good!


What about the potential for abuse?

 

If someone leaves Exmouth LETS when they have a negative balance, the people to whom they have credited LETS payments still have those Cockles in their accounts. No individual loses. It could be said that the community as a whole loses, but as it’s only a small proportion of the system’s total turnover, it’s unlikely to affect members’ trading. In practice, it usually works out that people leaving LETS systems with minus balances tend to roughly equal those leaving with plus balances.


What about Income Tax?

 

The same rules apply whether you trade in sterling or Cockles: the relevant factor is not the type of currency in which you are paid, but whether the transactions are regular and of a business nature. Most LETS transactions do not fall into this category, and are classed as ‘social favours’. However, if you are trading in Cockles as your regular business, you are responsible for keeping accounts and paying tax on your trading profits in the normal way. You cannot avoid tax liability simply by avoiding the use of sterling. Although tax must be paid in sterling, you can claim expenses incurred in Cockles against your total profits.


Can LETS trading affect benefits?

 

Benefits should not be affected provided that claimants are not trading more than 16 hours a week and are available for work.


What happened to the old Exmouth LETS?

 

A LETS system was active in Exmouth during the 1990s but ceased operating. The only link with the old system is the name of the currency, which has been retained. Members of the old system will need to register with the new system to start trading. Previously accrued Cockles from the old system will not be credited to the new system. Members of the old system will need to start from scratch.

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