Lending a hand to the hard-up

A new credit union is being set up in Wisbech in a move designed to make it easier for people to save money and obtain small loans.

Wisbech Savers is a new branch of the Rainbow Saver Anglia Credit Union. It will be open for business on January 22.

It is being backed by Fenland District Council, with strong support from Wisbech councillors. Roddons Housing Association is also supporting the service by recommending it to its 7,500 residents.

Credit unions are cooperatives run by members for the benefit of its members. They provide an alternative to banks, building societies, doorstep lenders and payday loan companies.

They offer safe savings accounts, small loans at reasonable interest rates and free life assurance. All money paid into members’ accounts is protected by the Government’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Wisbech Savers will be able to offer a “lock it away for Christmas account”, budgeting accounts and a pay-as-you-go Visa Debit card.

Once new members have paid in for 13 weeks they will be able to apply for low interest loans - for example, a £300 loan repaid at £9 per week for 37 weeks will cost about £30 in interest.

People can open an account even if they have been refused one from a bank and they can even open a savings account for their children.

Councillor David Oliver, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for Wisbech affairs, said: “In these very tough times many people are finding it hard to make ends meet and it is all too easy for them to fall victim to loan sharks and others charging exorbitant rates of interest. This offers a safe alternative.”

Wisbech Savers has also gained the support of local Fenland District Councillors Simon King, David Hodgson and Michael and Virginia Bucknor.

Cllrs King and Hodgson are among 30 volunteers who will help to run it. All the volunteers are due to receive training over the next couple of weeks.

They will man a number of “collection points” around the town where people will be able to open accounts. Paying into an account will be easy, either with a paypoint card or by visiting one of the collection points.

Mark Lowthian, Roddons’ assistant director for neighbourhoods, said: “We are fully behind Wisbech Savers and will be recommending it to Roddons residents.

“It is an excellent option for affordable credit which will protect residents from the high interest rates charged by unscrupulous lenders.”

Look out for more information over the next two weeks giving details of where the collection points will be.