The Legal Services Commission produces a series of public information leaflets, which cover key areas of the civil law in England and Wales.
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Credit Crunch & Credit Unions
Credit Unions are well placed to face ‘the credit crunch’ argued Mark Lynnette, CEO of ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) on a recent BBC Politics programme.
He described how credit unions are coming into their own as a safe haven for cautious cash and that they less vulnerable in the current financial situation as they are mutually owned and controlled by members.
Credit unions don’t have a stock market price that people can bet on and speculate on in order to make money. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has strict regulations on running of credit unions. A strong point in these troubled times is that credit unions can only loan out a proportion of their own money—unlike banks they can’t borrow money to loan out money.
There are 49,000 credit unions worldwide in 96 countries with assets of US $1.2 trillion. In Wales there are 30 credit unions with 40,000 adult members and 7,500 junior members with £16 million in savings.
Unlike banks or building societies they cannot hold stocks or shares or make loans to companies or individuals who are not members of their credit union. All credit union funds must be held in a bank or building society. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme that guarantees individual bank and building society accounts up to £75,000 also includes credit unions. However, the maximum holding for a credit union member is £10,000.
Another difference between credit unions and other financial institutions is that virtually all savings and loans of members are covered by a free life insurance. The maximum loan is £5,000 [subject to status]. The maximum repayment period is 36 months. Loans are insured against the death of borrowers under 80 years.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams welcomed Westminster proposals to enable community groups and local businesses, clubs and voluntary societies to join credit unions.
“Credit unions do have a vital role to play in time of a credit crunch,” says Bill Hudson, Wales Co-operative Centre, “They are based on mutual principles. They don’t benefit anybody other than their members and their members ‘communities’.”