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LONDON, England – A debate before Parliament put the case for credit unions strongly before the House of Commons, including a central services organization, which is a pet project of the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL). The debate was introduced by Gareth R. Thomas, Labour and Co-op member for Harrow West, but many other Members of Parliament (MP) gave examples of how credit unions have helped people within their own districts. Thomas, a member of the Rainbow Saver Credit Union, called credit unions and cooperatives a third sector of the economy. He said government must help by backing a new credit union central services organization. “A central services organization could be the Government’s way to provide national strategic support for the credit union movement, which would result in a larger and stronger credit union sector. That could provide credit unions with a central finance facility, which would enable them to pool their liquidity to get a better return than they do currently. It could focus on helping credit unions to combat financial exclusion through a challenge fund, so that they could contribute to financial inclusion,” he said. Saver said that he “wanted to impress on the House the need to establish a central services organization to help drive the expansion of the credit union sector and to highlight the need for further deregulation.” He expressed his “disappointment at the lack of effort so far by regional development agencies to expand credit union coverage.” Saver gave an example of the difference that a credit union can make. A 400 loan, he said, made by a credit company that is repayable over 24 weeks would cost 160 in interest. He compared it to an identical credit union loan that would have cost 11.62. Saver cited the statistics of 680 credit unions in England, Scotland and Wales, with almost 300,000 members and assets of almost 200 million. Credit union growth in the United Kingdom has been between 12 and 15% for the past few years, although it represents a small fraction of the population. He said in, “London, for example, there are only 44 credit unions, with 25,000 members and just 20 million in assets.” He gave some specific examples of credit union success such as Southwark Credit Union, which serves the employees of Southwark council. Recently it has been allowed to expand to cover the 250,000 people who live in the Southwark borough, although only a small fraction have joined. Saver also mentioned The Tower Hamlets Credit Cnion which has materials in Bengali for their non-anglophone members. Saver mentioned that both The National Assembly for Wales and The Scottish Executive are developing programs to push credit union development. There was no doubt he believed the English House of Commons should do the same. – [email protected]

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