Cheshire East Council has acted to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ in its fight to take on ‘rip-off’ payday loan firms – and backed local credit union coffers with cash from members’ own pockets.
The entire Cabinet and many councillors have signed up ‘en masse’ to become members of the local Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union (CNCU).
At a meeting of Full Council (Thursday, October 18), they also overwhelmingly backed a motion for the Council to support and promote credit unions across the Borough and in our secondary schools.
The aim is to boost credit unions’ funds to lend to more hard-pressed local people and reduce the risk they will be pushed into the arms of payday loan firms or illegal loan sharks – which both charge astronomical interest rates.
One payday loan firm was found by councillors to be charging interest of more than 5,850 per cent.
Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “I am delighted that this Council has demonstrated such a strong commitment to supporting Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union.
“That the entire Cabinet has signed up along with, I believe, the majority of ward councillors, sends a powerful message to the wider community from elected Members – who have vowed to actively combat payday lenders by encouraging greater credit union membership.
“This is a fantastic demonstration of our Council values.”
Cheshire East recently took its own practical steps to protect residents by banning access to the top 50 payday lender websites in its libraries and public buildings – the first Council in England to do so.
Councillor Jones has also welcomed tough new rule proposals from the Financial Conduct Authority, which could see some payday loan adverts banned.
Councillor Jones announced, at Full Council, that all10 members of his Cabinet had signed up to put some of their own money into the local credit union, CNCU.
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, also asked all Cheshire East councillors at the meeting to sign up to the scheme – on what was International Credit Union Day (October 17).
Councillor Raynes said: “We want to protect the most vulnerable people from falling into the trap of borrowing money at astronomical rates of interest.
“This is not about encouraging people to borrow – it is about encouraging people to save.
“Credit unions are superb local institutions which can really help hard-pressed local people access loans, which are affordable and have fair rates, to tide them over.
“I am delighted that all of my Cabinet colleagues and many Members have signed up to provide local credit unions with cash from their own pockets. This scheme and help give real practical assistance to hard-pressed local people.
“The theme of this year’s International Credit Union Day is ‘unite for good’ – and this is a great opportunity for local members to unite for the good of their communities.
“The more money these credit unions have in their coffers, then the more local people will be helped though short-term hardship with affordable loans – and the fewer will be pushed into taking out ‘extortionate’ payday loans.”
Councillor Jones added: “We were one of the first councils to ban access from Council PCs to payday loan websites, a move I am pleased to see has been picked up by other local authorities.
“I advise anybody who needs to borrow money to speak with their local CAB branch or credit union and we can signpost people to the right places.
“Do not fall into the trap of using a payday lender to make ends meet, as it can quite easily lead to a downward spiral and financial misery.”
Full Council voted overwhelming (October 18) to pass a motion put forward by Councillor Laura Jeuda stating:
● Cheshire East will encourage the growth of credit unions and follow the example of Glasgow in using trading standards officers to ensure that payday lenders are not breaching the Consumer Credit Act:
● To encourage young people to save responsibly by offering credit union accounts to secondary school pupils; and
● To provide premises for credit unions to operate in communities across Cheshire East where it is needed.
For more information about Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union (CNCU) visit their website at www.cncu.org.uk