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New regulations come into force today to make it easier for groups to establish credit unions and help them grow. ...
New regulations come into force today to make it easier for groups to establish credit unions and help them grow.

Many local authorities have taken the initiative in encouraging local communities - and, in some cases, their own employees - to set up credit unions. Staff at Lloyds Bank even have their own credit union.

These are seen as an effective way of keeping people out of the hands of loan sharks by providing cheap credit and a means of saving. Across the country there are 175,000 members of credit unions, which are basically savings co-operatives, with membership increasing at 25% a year and have around £100m in assets. The assets are what people save on a regular basis, providing the money for cheap loans.

Carol Napton, a volunteer who helps runs a credit union from the neighbourhood centre on the Broadlees estate in Leeds, said people qualified for cheap loans if they could demonstrate they could be relied on to save a minimum sum regularly - possibly at the rate of £1 a week.

She added: 'We are very strictly monitored by both insurance companies and the Registrar of Friendly Societies. And also, because it is run by local people, people trust you more and so are less likely to diddle the system. That is proven fact'.

The new regulations will not change the way credit unions are supervised, but will make it easier to establish them and some limits on their growth will be lifted.

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