Committee proposes expanded role for credit unions

Synopsis: The Assembly’s Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment today put forward a Motion in the Assembly to expand the number and services of credit unions. The Motion follows proposals made by the Irish League of Credit Unions and the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions to the Committee.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 25 February 2014

Reference: CETI 08/13/14

The Assembly's Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment today put forward a Motion in the Assembly to expand the number and services of credit unions. The Motion follows proposals made by the Irish League of Credit Unions and the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions to the Committee.

The credit union movement is seeking around £860,000 per year for five years to cover start-up costs to enable 75 credit unions across Northern Ireland to offer current accounts, debit cards, inward and outward payments, direct debits and standing orders. Once implemented, credit unions would be able to fill the void left by bank branch closures and could replace payday lenders.

Speaking before the debate, Committee Chairperson Patsy McGlone MLA said: "We believe that our Motion deserves and will receive the support of the Assembly. During this financial crisis, banks have been closing branches in rural and deprived areas, paying no attention to the loyalty or the needs of their customers.

"Another issue that we are very concerned with has been the rise of the payday lenders, charging often exorbitantly high interest rates. We strongly believe it would be better to help people access reliable, affordable banking services and short term loans. The proposals from the credit unions amply demonstrate that could be a better way, but we will have to support this financially if it is to happen.

Mr McGlone concluded: "Credit unions are in a unique position when it comes to financial services. They are truly community services; rooted in and managed by local people. They are there to help people manage their money and nobody is better placed to fill the void left by bank closures and provide responsible, affordable lending. Supporting their expansion--giving them the opportunity to offer more services--should be a priority for all of us."

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