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Debate highlights credit unions


18 Jul 16

MPs have discussed the merits of credit unions in a Parliamentary debate on co-operatives.

Before Parliament closed for its summer recess, the debate was secured by Stephen Doughty MP (Labour & Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth) to highlight the contribution of co-operatives to the British economy.

A member of Cardiff and Vale Credit Union himself, Mr Doughty had been part of the successful campaign to give Armed Forces personnel access to credit union services. He said: “I also recognise that fair lending and fair access to finance can help different sectors; particularly... veterans and those serving in our armed forces. It is crucial that they do not fall prey to the payday lenders who create such a problem in our economy.”

Gareth Thomas MP (Labour & Co-operative, Harrow West) was also a leading campaigner for credit union services for the Armed Forces, and he urged the Government to consider more support for credit unions where banks have closed branches and measures to help all employees save and borrow with credit unions direct from payroll.

Gareth Thomas MP said: “I would like to see a right to save, so that anybody who wants money deducted at payroll and sent to their credit union should be allowed to make that request and have that implemented without question. At the moment, it is at the discretion of the employer. Everybody knows that this is a service that can be offered incredibly cheaply by employers, but it is a matter of will. The very best employers do it, but sadly too many do not. Perhaps putting a right to save on the statute book could help to boost membership of credit unions.”

Chris Stephens MP (SNP, Glasgow South West) described joining a credit union as, “the most sensible decision that I have ever made about my finances,” and he highlighted the benefit of wider credit union membership to the country's economy saying: “We need to educate young people about money and make it easier for adults to save and borrow via credit unions. If we continue to promote credit unions, it will save public funds in the long term.”

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP responded for the Government, highlighting their commitment to the credit union movement through the £38 million Credit Union Expansion Project and the role credit unions play in the provision of affordable credit to consumers with limited options. He also praised credit unions for their, “essential role in broadening the range of financial services on offer to customers in the UK”, and looked forward to an even larger credit union movement, saying: “That is good for competition, and it is good for customer choice when it comes to the question of whom to bank with.”

Across England, Scotland and Wales, 342 credit unions serve more than 1.2 million members, including 136,000 junior savers. More than £1.1 billion is saved in British credit unions, with £769 million out on loan, and the movement’s assets are worth more than £1.3 billion. On average, more than 2,500 new members joined a credit union in Britain every week in the last 3 months of 2015.

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