Steer clear of loan sharks

Alex Neil MSP.
Alex Neil MSP.

NEVER has the ability to successfully manage your own money been quite so important.

With the recent VAT hike, and lending rates sitting at an all time low, it looks as though everyone’s going to have to make their pay packet stretch that little bit further to make ends meet.

But recent figures suggest we’re not doing very well on that front.

Housing charity Shelter Scotland revealed last week that 207,500 Scots have resorted to using a credit card to pay their rent or mortgage during the last 12 months.

And the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit estimate that 85,000 people annually borrow from more than 150 illegal lenders operating throughout the country, many charging interest rates equivalent to 10 million per cent APR.

Housing and communities minister Alex Neil recently dubbed these loan sharks ‘‘a blight on civilised society’’.

One route which offers an escape from the financial strangulation of high street, and back alley rates, is to join your local credit union.

Gerry Dailly, chairman of the Kilsyth and Villages Credit Union, says the services on offer can help many.

He explains: “A lot of people have become accustomed to living a certain way. The circumstances are that they can’t borrow or get loans and even if they do get money, even from legitimate money lenders, the interest rates are a bit over the top.

“That’s a fact of life. They start off borrowing £30 or £50 and end up owing £300 or £400. Some of the interest rates are just unbelievable.

“The Financial Services Authority are there to regulate all of the banks and lenders and sometimes they fail in their role, that’s quite obvious. It’s alright for someone sitting in an office in Canary Wharf, but these people don’t realise the impact of their decisions in houses in places like Kilsyth and Cumbernauld.”

Gerry believes many people will turn towards credit unions as they bid to shore up their finances.

“Credit unions offer the lowest interest charges in Britain,” Gerry continues. “People are becoming more aware of the credit union movement and the value of being a member because at least they can earn some interest on their savings.

“It’s all about managing your own money – saving wisely and borrowing wisely. It’s all based on saving yourself and getting to grips with your own finances.

“It’s all done through volunteers. The value and the services we can offer our community goes without saying. It’s not just the needy, it’s about helping each other.”

The Kilsyth and Villages Credit Union is located at 10-14 Market Street. You can contact them on 01236 829180, or stop by on a Tuesday, between 10am and 12pm, Wednesday, between 11.30am and 1.30pm, and Friday, between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.