1) What is Westie LETS?

Westie LETS is a project of the West Watford Community Association, 15 Harwoods Road, Watford WD18 7RB. Tel: 01923 235488.  Email:  [email protected]   Website:www.westwatford.org.uk   Registered Charity No. 1141618.  Company Limited by Guarantee No. 7386863

LETS stands for Local Exchange Transfer System and is based in West Watford. Westie LETS gives local people the opportunity to exchange goods and services without using money.  The system is based on a Directory of goods and services offered and requested.  Members search the Directory for what they need and then contact another member to trade.  Members can get in touch by telephone, email or at  "Talk and Trade" Socials – these socials will be advertised on the website. Transactions are paid for in our local currency called Westies and 10 Westies represent one hour of a member’s time.  The LETS Accountant records the transactions and balances on each account.  Westie LETS works as a closed system - when all balances are combined, they add up to zero.

2.   Who can join Westie LETS?

Anyone aged 18 or over and living in Vicarage Ward, West Watford can join Westie LETS.  

3.   What goods and services are available through Westie LETS?

The variety of goods and services available is limited only by the range and diversity of the people who join. The more members who join, the more services we can offer and the more useful the system becomes.  LETS allows people to meet a lot of their needs without cash.   If you are thinking about joining Westie LETS, you can browse the Public Directory  on the website to see if the goods and services currently on offer appeal to you.

4.   What can I offer?

Most people think they don't have anything to offer that anyone would want. Our Westie LETS Volunteer Team will help you recognise that you do have something to offer which can be a valuable resource for our neighbours in West Watford.

Some examples of services offered are: making a cake; cooking a meal; odd jobs around the house such as putting up a shelf or curtain pole; making, altering or mending clothes; knitting; ironing; gardening; shopping; childcare; drafting a CV; computer training or trouble-shooting; waiting in for a delivery; watering someone’s plants if they are away; offering your car for lifts ……..the list is endless.

Members could also hire out tools and equipment that are used infrequently - like a ladder, hedge-trimmer, drill or cement mixer, for instance.   Members could also offer goods to trade priced in Westies, e.g. fresh produce from your garden, a sideboard you no longer need or an old sewing machine.  Whatever you have - skills, goods or simply time - you can convert it into Westies to spend on something you need.

5.   How many Goods and Services can I list?

Members may advertise a maximum of 12 goods for sale and 12 goods wanted as well as 12 long-term services at any one time. 

Members can email their entries, giving the category they wish it to be entered under and providing a brief description (no more than 3 Directory lines).

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

Members provide details of the services they are offering and services they need. These are then entered into the Westie LETS Directory. Members can change or add to their entries at any time. The Directory can be seen on the website and a printed copy will be sent to those members without internet every few months.

Offers and Wants are organised under subject headings such as "Home and Domestic “; "Items for Hire”; “Gardening and Produce” etc. Once a member has found the service they want, they should note the provider’s account number and look up the contact details at the end of the Directory.

7.   Do I need to find a direct exchange?

No. A direct trade is fine but will probably not be the most usual mode of exchange. Westie LETS allows you to bake a cake for one member and get some curtains made by another.

8.   Who fixes the price and do I still need cash?

The Provider and Receiver agree the terms of each trade.  No member is obliged to trade unless they are happy to proceed.  All transactions are the responsibility of the members concerned. 

Members should not charge in pounds sterling for their services, or ask for more than the standard rate of 10 Westies 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 pounds sterling.  For example, making a fruitcake may cost £5 for ingredients and 10 Westies to make (including shopping time, mixing ingredients, baking time and washing up).  

The minimum spend is 1 Westie. Making a sponge cake may not take an hour so could be charged at 5 or 6 Westies.  Members bringing along items to sell at the Talk and Trade events should price their goods in Westies – books could be 1 or 2 Westies, jams and chutneys could be 2 or 3 Westies and so on.

The Westie LETS system passes on the information and keeps a record of account balances in Westies.

9.   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, which is available to download from the website. 

We also urge that you satisfy yourself as to your trading partner’s qualifications, insurance and DBS (formerly CRB) status where applicable – for example when requesting childcare or health-related services.  In addition, when hiring equipment, the lender should ensure the equipment is in good safe condition.  The lender should also give a demonstration and provide an instruction manual where possible.  The borrower should ensure the equipment is returned in good condition.

In the event of a dispute, the Organising Group will endeavour to resolve the problem – see the Membership Rules.

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

In a LETS system, spending actually creates wealth that 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.

Westie LETS is a non-profit-making scheme, 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 Westie LETS, being ‘in debt’ is good!

11.       What about the potential for abuse?

If someone leaves Westie LETS when they have a high commitment, the people to whom they have written LETS cheques still have those Westies in their accounts. No individual loses. It can be said that the community as a whole loses, but as it is 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 with minus balances tend to roughly equal those leaving with plus balances.

12.       What about tax?

The same rules apply whether you trade in pounds sterling or the local currency Westies:  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 Westies for 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 Westies against your total profits.

13.       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.

14.         Are there social and trading events?

There are social and trading events called “Talk and Trade” at West Watford Community Association, 15 Harwoods Road, WD18 7RB. These are advertised on the website, and members will be e-mailed with details about a week before the event.

15.      Who makes the rules and organises it all?

The Organising Group ensures the system is running properly. Every member is welcome at Organising Group meetings (dates of which will be notified on the website) and is entitled to join in making decisions - see the Membership Rules. 

If a serious dispute arises, the matter should be referred to the Centre Co-ordinator who will provide copies of the complaints procedure.

The Organising Group consists of some dedicated members who commit to specific tasks.  Some other members may also help or take on occasional jobs. All this work is paid for in Westies from the Central Account.