I’d like this week to promote the work of the East Sussex Credit Union, and pass on some good news.
I’d like this week to promote the work of the East Sussex Credit Union (ESCU), a key partner in the city’s financial advice service Moneyworks, and pass on some good news.
It works with the council and other money advice agencies to find the best solution for people who find themselves in financial difficulties. ESCU will be working from a shared advice hub in the refurbished Hove Town Hall to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for people when we move in next year.
Over the past year the Credit Union issued 166 small loans to people to cover emergencies, totalling more than £69,000. They also encourage saving or ‘buffer funds’ as an important tool to deal with unexpected events such as ill health, replacement white goods, unexpected large bills, relationship breakdown, and any of the other things that can hit people on lower incomes hard.
All of the Credit Union’s loans have a compulsory savings requirement, so even if the loan is tiny, borrowers save while repaying it.
ESCU now offer a prepaid visa debit card to members, without the need for a credit check, with no overdraft facility so you cannot go overdrawn and incur charges. It allows members to set up direct debits, make electronic payments, have access to online shopping and a rewards scheme.
All members are treated equally; loan interest rates are dependent on the amount borrowed and not on a person’s status or credit history. People can rebuild their credit history by borrowing from ESCU, something that these days can hold people back.
Housing is such a key issue in the city, and ESCU has set up an innovative Deposit Guarantee Scheme with the city council that has supported 400 residents to date. This scheme helps homeless people into private rented accommodation alongside setting up a savings scheme with ESCU.
The council put a bond to the landlord, and tenants save for the deposit with ESCU after they move in. These people were homeless; now thanks to this initiative they have a home, savings, and access to affordable credit.
The Credit Union currently has £2.3 million in safe savings and £1.5 million out on loan. It has over 5,000 members including myself, and is one of the fastest growing credit unions in UK. In the last five years it has doubled its membership, and more than tripled its shares. It offers local ethical accounts to individuals, community groups, and local businesses, key to sustaining the city as the pressure on public services grows.
We have brought together Ann Hickey, general manager of the Credit Union, and Martin Harris from Brighton and Hove Buses on the Fairness Commission to see how we can tackle financial exclusion across the city, and I thank them for the work they are doing to make our city a better, fairer place. I was keen that the Credit Union and the bus company work together on making local travel more affordable.
They have announced Credit Union members will soon get discounted annual bus passes, which is fantastic news for the city making travel to work more affordable. So why not join the Credit Union today?
East Sussex Credit Union
Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XG
Telephone: (01273) 234858 Monday to Friday 9.30 to 4pm