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Hit badly by high cost lenders, Norwich needs more credit unions like West Earlham

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Norwich is now one of the top ten locations for high cost loan shops outside of London and earlier this year I was at the opening of the new offices of the West Norwich Credit Union in Earlham. Cutting the tape for the official opening was credit union member Beryl Smith, who's 91years old...

Cutting the tape for the official opening was credit union member Beryl Smith, who's 91years old. She comes and pays in to her account every Friday. Beryl says the credit union is, "a real benefit to the community and wishes more people realised it’s there to help.”

Luxley Musoni is one of the volunteers who has a background in banking. She says, “People believe credit unions are somehow second rate. That’s not true. This is the best place to be if you need a loan or help with debt. It offers a first class service.” Other members agreed. “The credit union was a lifeline to us. We can’t praise them enough.” “We came in and they started helping us straight away.” "They don’t look down on you and became like family to us."

The debt advice service, MABS, run by Norwich City Council, now has a dedicated office on site and so will be able to help more people.

Outside of London, Norwich has the ninth highest concentration of high-cost loan shops in England and is in the top twenty for the whole of our country. Recent government proposals to cap high-cost loans would still leave some of the poorest people in our city paying back double the amount they borrow, over a short period.

Credit unions are a vital community response in the battle against this rip-off lending culture and loan sharks. So I'm delighted that a future Labour government is already committed to doubling the amount of financial support for credit unions by putting a 1 per cent levy on the balance sheet of high-cost lenders or with a 10 per cent profits tax. We'll also make it possible for local councils to refuse permission for even more payday lending shops to prey on our most vulnerable communities.

West Norwich Credit Union started in 1992. It now has 2,500 members and has offered more than £2 million in loans.
President Ian Leather says "the new offices mean after 20 years we have “all the facilities we need to offer a full service to the community. We’re a friendly face and here to help anyone with money worries."

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