The battle to fend off “legal loan sharks” in south Leeds has been boosted by the opening of a new community credit union branch and job shop.
The new services at the St George’s Centre, in St George’s Road, Middleton, are hoped to prove a boost to around 3,600 people in the Middleton Park ward who are on Jobseeker’s Allowance or other benefits.
The Leeds City Credit Union kiosk in the centre is aimed to give residents a credible lending option and the opportunity to build savings in an area that has been targeted by doorstep loan sharks as well as payday loan companies.
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “For me if we are to combat the loan sharks that are moving into our communities and if we are to help people that are struggling with poverty, the credit unions are the only alternative to some of these rip-off lenders.”
He said credit unions are vital to stop people being exploited by legal money lenders with attractive but superficial loan offers.
The drive to ward residents off turning to high-interest payday lenders comes as the council joined five other local authorities in blocking such firms’ websites from all council computers this week.
Chris Smyth, from Leeds City Credit Union, said: “This is the frontline and this is where we can make a tremendous difference by encouraging even more members of the credit unions – let’s carry on that battle against the rogues.”
Offering services including CV advice, job searches and interview training two days a week at St George’s, the Middleton and Belle Isle Job Shop is hoped to help residents capitalise on more than 400 supermarket jobs coming to the area at Asda and Aldi stores, which are now under construction in Middleton.
Coun Kim Groves (Lab, Middleton) said: “We want local people to secure local employment to make the area sustainable for them. When you see local people struggling to get work out of school it’s about giving them the opportunity to get jobs.”
The job shop is the first in Leeds to be run by partner organisations such as Igen, Unionlearn and Leeds City Council.
There are currently more than 5,000 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance in south Leeds.
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