CARDIFF BAY, Wales-The Welsh Liberal Democrat Social Justice recently announced that it is urging the Welsh Assembly to take action to ensure the future of Welsh credit unions. Wales has approximately 46 credit unions serving over 36,000 members with more than 3 million in savings. In 2000, the Welsh Assembly Government announced a 3.8 million package for the credit union movement in Wales, over three years, as part of its social inclusion agenda. However, there are now doubts whether this funding is allowed under European rules as it may be classed as State Aid. “I am aware that the Minister for Social Justice has sought to work with the Wales Co-Operative Centre to put contingency measures in place whilst talks are on going with Europe,” the group’s spokesperson, Peter Black, said. “However, many credit unions are facing cash-flow problems and an uncertain future. Unless the situation is resolved quickly they may have to curtail their activities.” “The work that the Assembly has done with credit unions has been invaluable,” he said. “They have helped people to save, to rescue people from the clutches of loan sharks, to sort out debt problems and to get affordable loans for the first time ever. Credit unions are a vital part of any strategy to tackle financial exclusion. They cannot, however, continue to expand their operations without start-up financial support from Government to establish themselves as independent financial institutions. A solution must be found to this problem urgently so as not to see all the good work unravel before our eyes.”

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