Credit union plea gets the red card

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is insisting it will not spend money to actively promote a not-for-profit credit union which already has 19,000 members in the Borders and Lothians, and assets of more than £20million.

The local authority, along with NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Housing Association, is a “sponsoring employer” of the Edinburgh-based Capital Credit Union (CCU).

As such, staff with these organisations can save with the CCU directly through their salaries.

Last year, the CCU launched CredEplus, a reloadable prepaid card which works like a high street debit card. Wages and benefits of people without bank accounts can be paid directly into the CCU with rent, council tax, social care charges and other monthly bills paid by direct debit.

The remainder of a client’s cash is loaded onto the card to pay for goods and cash withdrawals.

At last week’s council meeting, Councillor Gavin Logan (Con., Tweeddale East) cited the example of Perth and Kinross Council which has, in association with that area’s main credit union, financed the distribution of a similar card among social housing and social care clients, as well as people at risk of homelessness.

Anyone can apply, with no credit checks required.

Mr Logan said that pilot scheme had been a success and asked Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work, if her council would follow suit and promote the CCU card via council tax bills and in the quarterly SB Connect newspaper.

“This card has a myriad of benefits, particularly for those people without access to bank accounts,” he claimed.

Mrs Renton said her council had promoted the use of credit unions generally in the region and had recently allowed the CCU to promote its services in council headquarters at Newtown.

“CCU has also attended this council’s Strategic Partnership Against Poverty where these matters are discussed and we would welcome a discussion with them on how best they can be supported with this or any other initiative,” she said.

“While we are always willing to support the work of ethical credit lenders … we cannot actively ‘promote’ a single organisation, bearing in mind there are other products out there,” she added.