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Calls to encourage credit unions to replace loan sharks on housing estates
A CREDIT union service could be set up to help people living on estates to avoid them getting deeper into debt.
Calls have been made to bring the community lending service to Barton and Wood Farm to help those currently relying on high interest loans from loan sharks and payday loan firms.
Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council member for Churchill and Lye Valley, said: “The community is being plagued by loan sharks – people who are prepared to lend money at very high interests rates – which puts people deeper into debt.
“We have got people living in poverty, people who will grab anything if anyone offers to lend them money.
“We need to get to the position where morality is brought back into banking and that’s what credit unions do.”
Between March 2012 and April this year more than 130 people sought benefits and debt help from the Citizens Advice Bureau based at the Headington and Slade Children’s Centre in Titup Hall Drive.
Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury was “embarrassed” after it emerged the Church of England had indirectly invested in payday loan firm Wonga.
Barton resident Robin Peake, 27, of Mather Road, said people from churches in the area hope to help bring a credit union service to the estate.
He said: “There is a need to offer better alternatives to payday lenders and credit unions are a great alternative to that. We would love to see more people in Barton access that easily.”
Sue Holden, secretary of Barton Community Association, added: “If we could establish a credit union it would reduce the need for people to turn to loan sharks. “In today’s financial crisis everybody needs to access finance at some time or another.”
Debbie Santos, 50, of Taggs Gate, Barton, took out a £500 high interest loan to cover bills after her husband James died of cancer five years ago.
The grandmother-of-two said she ended up paying more than £200 in interest and said a credit union would help people manage their money.
She said: “It was the only thing I could do at the time. I didn’t have the money. Sometimes people do that and I have known people to get into a lot of debt.”
Earlier this month it was announced that Blackbird Leys Credit Union would merge with the Oxford Credit Union to share costs.
Mark Luntley, chairman of the Oxford Credit Union, said he would be happy to talk about the idea of creating a satellite office to serve the estates.
He said: “We are open to and supportive of other organisations wanting to open credit unions in the county.”
But he said the area would have to have investors too, adding: “If it’s just people who want to borrow then nobody is saving. There has to be a balance.”
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