Credit union to ease pressure

GIRVAN residents could soon see some relief from current economic pressures under plans to bring a credit union to the town.

It is hoped the Town Team’s first large-scale initiative will soon come to fruition as an information evening is scheduled for next week.

Credit unions are owned and controlled by their members, who collectively pool their savings and make loans to each other at low rates of interest and under often more flexible terms than those offered by commercial banks.

1st Alliance credit union representative Craig Potter was invited to the Town Team’s August meeting to explain credit unions and how they work.

He told them 1st Alliance, which is Kilwinning-based but has recently expanded into Ayr and already has members in Girvan, is eager to expand further afield.

He fears changes to the UK benefits system next year will hit the lowest earners hardest, and said: “We think we make it, not ideal, but easier for people, and we are trying to get the information out to them now so they can be prepared for it.”

He explained that expanding the existing union – which already has about 4000 members and is the leading community owned financial service provider in Ayrshire – into Girvan will eliminate some of the challenges involved in setting up a credit union.

1st Alliance is backed by the Cooperative Bank, and Mr Potter explained that this means members can still have a regular bank account.

But unlike many high street banks the credit union’s emphasis is on responsible saving and borrowing, so loans will only be distributed to those who can afford to pay them back, and at a sustainable rate of no more than two per cent interest. “I am constantly amazed at how many people are struggling to get a bank account just now,” Mr Potter said. “We are trying to get ways round about that and we realise how empowering it is to have your own bank account. It is something I am quite passionate about.”

The Town Team chairman, Reverend Ian McLachlan of Girvan’s South Parish Church, said a credit union in Girvan would bring benefits for everybody. He mirrored Mr Potter’s concern at the changes to benefits the UK will see in 2013. “I know I have had people turn up at my door who are paid two-weekly and have run out after one week, so what they are going to be like after four weeks I dread to think,” he said.

Interested individuals are invited to meet 1st Alliance representatives at Girvan Com­munity Centre at 82 Dalrymple Street between 2.30 and 4.30pm, and at the Carrick Buildings on Girvan’s Henrietta Street between 6.30 and 8.30pm on Tuesday October 16.