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Credit Union partnership promotes financial inclusion across the south west

Credit Union partnership promotes financial inclusion across the south west

The innovative partnership between nine south west housing associations and a local  Credit Union, Westcountry Savings and Loans, aims to bring Credit Union services to customers,  communities and staff to tackle the issue of high cost credit by providing  affordable, trusted financial products.

Westcountry Savings and Loans is an alternative home for savings and source of affordable loans. It is owned by, and run for the benefit of its customers who are all members of the organisation. The company’s mission is “for people not profit”;  no profits go to external shareholders and any interest on borrowing is recycled back into the Credit Union to enable it to serve more customers and offer better rates, products and services for the benefit of communities across the south west.

The project will develop savings and loans products that are easy to access and attractive to housing association customers, staff and their suppliers. The aim is to provide choice and better products to encourage savings and budgeting, and so offer a much better and affordable alternative to high cost payday or doorstep loans. In the past households have had limited options in terms of loans and savings products, many of which are expensive and can create serious financial issues  in many households.

Up until now, Credit Union coverage has been patchy or non-existent across the south west with limited access as a result of a range of barriers such as technology, service provision and geography. This has led to even less choice for people living in the area, and pushed many low income households into taking on even more debt at higher rates.

The new partnership will use its collective buying power, economic reach, influence and working practices to bring a credible and sustainable Credit Union offer to all of its communities.

Local housing association Westward is one of the partner organisations involved in the project.

Barbara Shaw, chief executive of Westward, said “We are really pleased to be part of this unique and important collaboration. Through working together as a partnership, residents across the south west can benefit from a source of financial support that enables people to make savings and borrow affordably.

“The Credit Union puts fairer finances in reach of both tenants and staff and will help people with varying income levels get on top of their finances, making a positive difference to household budgets. We really look forward to what the future brings for the Credit Union partnership.”

Martyn Gimber, on behalf of the Credit Union Sustainability Partnership, said “We are delighted to have selected West Country Savings and Loans as our trusted delivery partner across the south west. This is an important partnership that will enable customers to access low cost affordable finance, and provide savings accounts to help with budgeting and managing finances. This is a unique project developed by 9 of the largest housing associations in the south west that will really help to tackle the high cost of credit being faced by many households. The choice, service and affordable products offered are very competitive and all interest is reinvested for the benefit of its customers. This ethical not for profit model will really help communities and households across the south west.”

Peter Marlow, who sits on the Board of Directors at Westcountry Savings and Loans, said “We are delighted to be selected to work in partnership with the 9 housing associations concerned. We are really looking forward to bringing financial services to staff and residents, with a focus on affordability and well-being.”