Credit union set for launch

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LAUGHING in the face of superstition, Ribble Valley’s new Credit Union will be officially launched on Friday the 13th of January.

Ribble Valley Citizens Advice Bureau is delighted to open its doors on that date to anyone living or working in the Ribble Valley who wants to become a member of First Choice Credit Union. The pay point will then be open from 2 to 3 p.m. every Friday at the Bureau at 19-21 Wesleyan Row, Parson Lane, Clitheroe.

Credit unions are designed to encourage saving and make low cost loans available to their members. They are secure, regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and fully insured. The new Ribble Valley scheme is actually an extension of an existing credit union which has been operating successfully in East Lancashire for some time.

Now found worldwide, credit unions were first set up in Germany in the 1850s as a savings and loans club for small farmers, struggling to buy seed in years of difficult harvests. The not-for-profit banking offered by credit unions is very popular in America, Canada, Australia and Ireland, with membership of up to half the population.

In Britain, the Credit Unions Act 1979 enabled the growth of these financial co-operatives and now there are 420 credit unions with almost a million members saving £689m. and lending out £561m.

Why join First Choice Credit Union?

l To save up using the Savings Account (with life insurance)

l To get ready for next Christmas with the Christmas Bonus Savings Account

l To organise your finances to pay bills with the Budget Account

l To borrow a Low Cost Loan

Other benefits for member include:

l A pre-paid debit card – for using like any bank card but without the headache of getting overdrawn

l A family funeral plan

l The opportunity to buy electrical goods at a discount through the Co-operative Electrical Scheme.

Credit unions are also a popular choice for those keen to support ethical banking. Savings are safe (fully insured), and members receive an annual dividend at 1.25% while knowing their money will strengthen a micro-finance resource for local people to provide an alternative to pay day loans and high cost lenders who can charge 4000% APR for credit.

How to become a member:

From Friday January 13th 2012 you can join at Ribble Valley Citizens Advice Bureau between 2 and 3 p.m. You will need to bring at least two documents with proof of your name, address, National Insurance number and date of birth.

You will then get your membership card and paying in book sent out to you by post. (Payments can be made by telephone at any time of day or night on 0844 848 0040)

How does a credit union work?

1. A pool of money is formed from members’ savings

2. Members can apply to borrow small loans

3. Loan applications are assessed and responsible lending approved

4. Borrowers pay back interest on loans (up to 2% per month)

5. The pool of money grows

6. Running costs are paid out and reserves set aside

7. From the surplus (profit) a dividend is paid out to members each year.

First Choice Credit Union already has more than 650 members and is well established and carefully managed by its team of volunteers. It has a savings pot of more than £350,000 and has lent out £130,000 in low cost loans to members.

First Choice Credit Union was until recently called HHH Credit Union. It was originally set up for Helmshore and Haslingden and then grew to cover Hyndburn. The name change was needed because it has now extended membership to include anybody living or working in the Ribble Valley.