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Plaid AM urges Welsh Government to help spread the benefits of credit unions

Published in News at 13:00, Thursday February 7th, 2013. Last updated at 13:38, Thursday February 7th, 2013

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Plaid Cymru South Wales East AM Lindsay Whittle has urged the Welsh Government to do much more to promote the development of credit unions to avoid people falling victim to loan sharks.

In a question to the First Minister, Mr Whittle, who is Plaid’s equalities spokesman, asked what progress was being made to help boost number of credit unions which offer low interest loans to people, many of whom might turn to pay day loans.

The South Wales East AM, who is a member of the British Irish Council inquiry into credit unions, said that Wales was the poor relation in the UK with just 1.8% of people in credit unions.

That compares to 5% in Scotland, and 20% in Glasgow. It is nearly 60% in Ireland and there is £16bn Euros available within credit unions for investment in Ireland.

He said: “There are 22 credit unions in Wales but only three in the most disadvantaged area, the South Wales Valleys. Based on the Welsh figures based on their population Ireland would have 50 credit unions but, in fact, has 487. Scotland has 129. During the One Wales Government, a credit union action plan was formed but the current plan is to increase members to only 6%.

“It could be argued that people in Wales on low incomes or on benefits cannot afford to save as members. But on the other hand they are being ripped off by loan sharks and pay day loan companies charging exorbitant interest rates. If Ireland can attract such a huge credit union membership we need to learn from them.

“A real campaign has to be sustained over a period of time with a budget earmarked to ensure that credit unions are expanded.”

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  • Sian Boyles

    Where I am in favour of credit unions and their value in society (not just in austere times)that help those who need it the most, I am also apposed to loan sharks and welcome Mr Whittles attempt to raise the profile of credit unions and the downfall of using loan sharks.

    One thing I am perplexed about, and something that is within the gift of Mr Whittle as an AM (along with other AMs at the Senedd and MP's in San Steffan) is their lack of action on putting pressure on the Coalition in terms of the public sector pay freeze.

    After two years pay freeze and now a 1% pay cap in the civil service alone, and with yesterdays announcement that the NHS nurses pay is to looked at being capped also, this is where they should be focussing their attentions, putting pressure to raise the standard of living for the public sector workers who are having to rely heavily on the credit unions to make ends meat.

    Public sector workers who are struggling to put fuel in cars, pay for transport just to get to work – public sector workers who a few days after payday have to rely on friends and family to help them financially until the next pay day – public sector workers who are having to make the choices of feeding their families over heating their homes in the cold weather.

    Putting 1% pay increase into the pay packets of public sector workers will not add to the "deficit" as the coalition make out, public sector workers are not well paid with "gold plated pensions" as the right wing press have us all believe, they are low paid workers who strive hard to deliver quality services under very difficult circumstances, people who are proud to deliver public services.

    If Mr Whittle took time to speak with staff at the Welsh Government and National Assembly for Wales, where he works on a daily basis, he will hear the reality and human factor of the coalition cuts – and he should be galvanising AM's and working with MP's in Wales to put the pressure on San Steffan – this is withing the gift of all AM's and cross party working on such an important issue should be highlighted at the same time as promoting the Credit Unions.