Credit Unions to offer current accounts option

Local Credit Unions have moved a step closer to securing Government funding for the expansion of services to their members.

The move is aimed at helping to fill gaps in service left by bank branch closures across Northern Ireland .

A motion tabled by the Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee debated at last Tuesday’s Plenary Session of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont earned cross-party support.

Rosemary O’Doherty, spokesperson for the Irish League of Credit Unions, said: “We are delighted with the tremendous backing given by members of the Assembly to credit unions and the work that they do.

“This is truly a vote of confidence in an organisation which is all about providing ordinary people with an extraordinary financial resource and service.

“The sole purpose of any Credit Union is to serve their members and, with a funding provision from the Assembly, we can expand our service here in Northern Ireland to include Current Accounts and card access, completing our offer of full viable, secure banking alternative for the communities that we serve.

“Funding is in place to make this happen in England, Scotland and Wales, but due to a disparity in legislation, financial support for such a scheme is not currently available here.”

She added: “In today’’s challengingly austere economic climate, we simply cannot afford for Northern Ireland to be left behind and we therefore look forward to meeting with DETI Minister, Arlene Foster, and other relevant departments to progress this decision, and give practical support to credit unions in Northern Ireland, as Westminster and the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments have done.”

“ILCU is asking for funding of just over £860,000 per year, over five years, to enable 75 credit unions to expand their services, allowing each to offer full current accounts with card access and thus provide a comprehensive alternative to managing money with the banks.

“Bank re-structuring has left many people without straightforward access to banking, unless they use online, which has had negative effects on many, including small businesses and older and more vulnerable people.”