LEEDS is slowly starting to win its war with loan sharks, illegal lenders and payday loan providers.
The city is leading a major drive to stamp out the predatory lenders targeting some of the city’s most vulnerable and financially pressured families.
Since a citywide campaign was launched last year, membership of the city’s credit unions has shot up to an unprecedented 27,000 people. Lending through the credit unions was up by 25 per cent last Christmas, and it is estimated that borrowers saved £650,000 by choosing this route.
However the problem is far from stamped out, say city bosses.
They have now launched a new phase of the campaign, to make credit unions and other credible alternatives as easy to access as the high-interest loans which can be available within seconds online.
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds Credit Union provides a realistic and credible alternative to both high-cost ‘pay day’ lenders and illegal money lenders by offering easy access loans without the extortionate interest rates, and it is positive news that more people have decided to sign-up and access their wide-range of services. As part of our continued support for the Leeds Credit Union, we have provided them with a base at several of our One Stop Centres in the city.”
A meeting of the council’s Safer and Stronger Communities scrutiny board - which is conducting a major investigation into stamping out predatory lending - heard this week that new work is under way to identify people in financial crisis, and signpost them to the relevant help BEFORE they are drawn into the grips of shady lenders. “People think they have no option, but they have got an option,” the meeting was told.
Coun Debra Coupar, Labour councillor for the Cross Gates area, which has one of the highest numbers of payday lenders in the city, said it was important to provide people with easy alternatives because “when people are in crisis and there is a 20 second answer to what they need, they will take it”.