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CREDIT UNIONS BRANCH OUT

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Some people are fighting bank branch closures and general disgruntlement with banks by forming credit unions and, ...
Some people are fighting bank branch closures and general disgruntlement with banks by forming credit unions and,

more recently, a new type of financial institution, the community reinvestment trust, according to a major feature in The

Observer (Business, pp 2,3,4).

In Salford the River Valley Credit Union moved into a former NatWest branch a year ago. Ann Falsey, on secondment from Salford City Council and chair of the credit union, believes the union's high street presence has helped push up membership dramatically. At the time of the move, it had 225 active members and 90 child members (who can save

with a credit union but cannot borrow). Now there are 800 active members and 400 juniors.

Ms Falsey organised a bid for the bank premises and got it for£61,000, which was less than the asking price. The credit union received funding from a local housing association, Irwell Valley, which bought the building and leased it to the union. Funds were also obtained from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, as well as a local regeneration fund.

At the city council, Ms Falsey was a development officer for credit unions and has been a credit union member for 10

years, having borrowed£4,500 to buy her car. She feels they could play a much bigger part in their communities if they had wider powers. 'There is no reason why we can't do mortgages and credit cards', she says.

She also wants to see greater freedom over the terms credit unions can offer. The maximum repayment period for loans - two years - is too short, she argues. It is a great frustration to her credit union that it was turned down for lottery funding because it is not classified as a philanthropic organisation.

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