Gloucester city councillor Brendon O’Donnell resigned after the council refused to support the BillyChip, a poker chip-style token which can be purchased from a cafe or shop and given to a person on the street who can exchange it for a hot drink.
He branded the council’s response – that it “does not promote” any particular options – “bullshit” and went off to sit as an independent.
But now his stand has paid off.
In a full council meeting at the end of March, the council voted to collaborate with BillyChip to help the organisation raise its profile, and called the scheme a “simple, innovative and more secure way” for the public to help rough sleepers.
The council also resolved to put a link to the scheme on its website, and to consider if the scheme is appropriate for any council-run venues.
“We recognise that BillyChip is a worthwhile scheme that allows members of the public a different choice in how to support rough sleepers,” read a motion passed by the council on March 23.
The BillyChip was created by the family of Billy Abernethy-Hope, a paramedic who died in a motorcycle accident in Thailand. Before his death, Abernethy-Hope had discussed the idea of a token which would encourage the reluctant to donate to people on the streets.
Shoppers buy the chip for £2 and give it to somebody who can take it to a participating outlet in exchange for food or drink.
While there is debate over the most effective way to help people on the streets, the creators of the BillyChip say it is useful both for an increasingly cashless society, and for those who may be hesitant about giving cash directly. These factors were acknowledged in the vote passed by the council.
Jack Gascoigne, director of communications for BillyChip, said the council’s decision would help locals find more ways to give to those in need.
‘We are delighted with the news that Gloucester Council has passed a motion to support BillyChip,” he said.
“We hope this will enable those living in the area to directly support people forced to sleep rough through our safe and secure currency, providing a solution for people without bank accounts to access food and drink from our ever increasing cashless high streets.
Gascoigne also said he hoped Gloucester’s decision would spur other councils on to support the scheme.
“It’s so encouraging to see councils and local authorities being so proactive in their adoption of BillyChip after our initial struggles with our home city of Bristol,” he said.
“We hope that with Gloucester, Cheltenham, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset council now leading by example that this will reopen conversations with Bristol City Council to work with us on a city-wide implementation of BillyChip that can be replicated nationwide.”
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