Buxton seminar puts spotlight on ‘War on Wonga’ and rise of credit unions

The Devonshire Dome, Buxton
The Devonshire Dome, Buxton

Poverty in the High Peak is an everyday tragedy being played out in a house near you no matter where you live.

That was the warning from campaigners at a seminar on pay-day loans, organised by the Church of England, which was held at the University of Derby’s Buxton Campus.

Buxton church and community leaders, local councils and financial advice charities met to discuss ways of promoting not-for-profit credit unions with sensible interest rates as an alternative to pay-day lenders like Wonga which charge anything between 1,000 per cent and 5,000 per cent APR.

Derby Diocese, in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s so-called ‘War on Wonga’, is calling on everyone – not just those in poverty – to support credit unions, whose ability to supply short-term loans of small amounts of cash can help keep people from slipping into disastrous debt.

Bev Parker, of Financial Action and Advice Derbyshire (FAAD), said: “Poverty exists everywhere. You can’t point to an estate and say that’s where the poor live – there are poor people next door.”

You don’t have to be a member to get a loan, but credit unions encourage their clients to save even while they are repaying a loan – so that when it is paid, the habit continues.

Jon Leigh, of the Derbyshire Community Bank, urged local employers to offer employees the chance to have savings deducted via the pay-roll, which helps with budgeting.

The event was chaired by the Rev Steve Fisher, chairman of Buxton Churches Together, who said the Archbishop had declared what the media dubbed his ‘War on Wonga’ to beat the loan sharks and pay day lenders.

Mr Fisher added: “It’s good news for the poor in our area. And it’s good news for all of us because we can do something to help make a real difference to people’s lives.”

n A Credit Union Advisor is available one day a week at Buxton and Glossop council offices. Anyone interested in becoming a member can find details by following the Manchester Credit Union link on www.highpeak.gov.uk.