CHARLES GRAHAM - Credit unions putting people first

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IN THE last few weeks I have been happy to give space in the paper to publicity for two excellent local financial institutions: the Welcome and Unify Credit Unions.

Both are on the recruitment trail for new customers and both have earned high praise for their work in helping local folk get out of the debt trap and avoid loan sharks.

Contrast this with Wonga.com, an organisation which is banned in most European countries but curiously allowed to thrive in Britain.

Now advertising on television, this payday loan firm charges people 4,200 per cent interest. The idea is that it gives you a loan that you are meant to pay back very quickly but many are the tales of folk sucked into an impossible debt spiral.

Little wonder its founders, Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz were this week reported to have made £50m between them from this scam.

It never ceases to amaze me that folk either don’t read the small print or fail to realise that there are much more benign alternatives to getting loans than from these astronomically-high-interest companies. There are a lot of people struggling with their finances at the moment: some because they have spent money beyond their means, many others who have, though no fault of their own, been hit hard by the recession as job losses, pay cuts and soaring bills and prices conspire to squeeze incomes and savings.

Please make our local credit unions a first port of call if you fall into this category rather than the predators who will only make your financial straits infinitely worse.