UK Treasury and Credit Unions Ponder Interest Rates Hikes
LONDON, U.K. - The British Treasury is deciding whether to raise the 1% a month/12.68% APR credit union loan rate cap and has launched a full study into the issue. The Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd. (ABCUL) wants members to respond. In favour of a raise is the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the largest UK social policy research and development charities. Paul Jones, credit union expert and professor at Liverpool John Moores University, recommends that the ceiling lending rate should be increased to 25.4% APR. Jones believes, "Financial analysis, through the PEARLS program, has led to the conclusion that the statutory upper limit of 12.68% APR charged on loans is insufficient to cover the basic costs of certain categories of loans and leads to a restriction rather than to an expansion of services to low income groups." Providing availability to financial services to all Britons is a major UK Treasury priority. A March 16th BBC documentary exposed the high interest rates that many low-income people are being charged in the U.K. and suggested that people turn to credit unions as an alternative. It gave as an example a 38-year-old single mother from Lewisham who had borrowed 700 (US$1329) at 420 (US$750) interest. She joined ACTS Credit Union and took a 500 (US$950) credit union loan to pay off the first at a fraction of the interest charges. ABCUL CEO Mark Lyonette spoke on the issue, "Many people who can't borrow from banks or building societies are forced to borrow from doorstep lenders who may charge from 150 to over 300% APR. The current capacity of some credit unions may mean that people are usually required to save before they can borrow, meaning people already indebted to high cost lenders can find it hard to break out of the debt trap and start saving and borrowing affordably from the credit union." Lyonette said the higher cap would allow credit unions to create greater access to affordable lending as well as other services. He encouraged all credit unions to consider the impact that the flexibility of higher rates would have on their members and communities.