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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Cumbrian credit union triples number of customers

A west Cumbrian credit union has tripled in size over the past few years as people fall victim to pay-day loans and embrace community lending.

Cleator Moor Credit Union has seen its membership rise from 500 around five years ago to 1,700.

Treasurer Jim Youdale said there had been a rise in the number of people turning to them to escape pay day loans with ‘mega’ interest rates running into thousands of pounds.

He said members also liked the ‘community spirit’ concept of credit unions, which offer low interest rates and keep the money in the local economy.

“Pay day loans are an area of concern for us. People get tied up with very high interest rates and come to us looking to consolidate their debt,” he said.

“We get others who have paid them off and just want to get out of using them.”

Mr Youdale also attributed the rise to people becoming more aware of credit unions and the ‘better products’ they now offer.

“We have a handy loan which doesn’t require people to save before they borrow,” he explained.

“Previously, people had to save first. This does require people to start saving at the same time as they borrow.”

The union, which started in 1995, works by getting a network of people to pool their funds to provide a ‘bank’ from which members can apply for low interest loans.

Since it started in 1995, the union has handed out £3.5m, with £420,000 out on loan at the moment.

Mr Youdale said the members had changed over recent years, as the recession continues, and they were seeing more “reasonably well paid, semi-professional” people joining.

“It’s just the general financial climate, everyone is suffering,” he said.

They are preparing for an extremely busy Christmas, with £12,000 in their Christmas Savings Club, which was launched last year.

The latest figures were released as the credit union gears up to mark International Credit Union Day on October 18, which this year has the theme Members Matter Most.

Cleator Moor Credit Union is marking the day by launching a new logo and promoting a new members handbook, with details of free life savings and loan protection insurance, family life insurance and a young savers account, popular with grandparents.

The union is open to people who live or work in Cleator Moor, Cleator, Moor Row, Frizington, Arlecdon, Rowrah and Ennerdale.

Another credit union operates in west Cumbria, the Whitehaven, Egremont and District Credit Union.

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