Thursday, 20 August 2009

Visit to the credit union

Had a very interesting chat with James Berry, the Chief Exec of Bristol Credit Union today, on a visit to their new(ish) offices in Stokes Croft, which are a huge improvement on their old premises in Old Market. James told me I'd come at a quiet moment, but customers were still queueing out the door. The CU has gone from strength to strength since most of the local credit unions merged into one. They've increased their customer base from c.2000 to c4500, and their assets from c£450,000 to c£2 million. They've now got a current account cash card, which James proudly told me he'd used recently in Egypt and Washington DC, and are doing a sterling job administering loans from the DWP's Growth Fund and the Child Trust Fund. They're also planning to widen their coverage soon to all of CUBA (the Counties that Used to Be Avon as we say here), and are in talks with housing associations about whether they can provide mortgages to people on relatively low incomes on part buy/ part-rent schemes. (In fact they've got a conference coming up on September 16th on housing-related issues, and I've agreed to be a guest speaker). All good stuff - and nice to know my (modest!) savings are in safe hands.

Actually, I should also flag up where the Government is with its review of credit union legislation - see here for more info. All good stuff, as I've already said!


Vincenzo Rampulla said...

Credit Union are great and it's even better when we see them be successful and popular across the board.

Are they doing anything with the local authority about Local Housing Allowance? I know of some local authorities that are helping tenants getting local housing allowance by paying their money into credit union accounts. This helps them manage their money and stop LA having to issue cheques which tenants then have to cash at money shops!

Kerry said...

It's funny you should say that, because that's the one thing I was going to mention but then thought I'd better get on with some other work... Yes, Bristol CU is doing a lot of that. Tenants get their housing allowance paid into a separate account, i.e. separate from their main share account, and the CU then pays it out direct to the landlord. This means that the landlords are more willing to take on HB claimants, because there's a pretty good chance they'll get their money, and as a result they're willing to pay the credit union a little bit for providing this service. There's nothing to stop tenants withdrawing the money for their own use, which ties in with the principle that they shouldn't be 'mothered' but should be allowed to manage their own money, but most of them are happy that it's in the housing account so they know their rent will be paid.

Steven_L said...

Not that I don't agree BCU do a sterling job, but if I were you I'd get your modest savings out of there before Gordon, Alastair and Mervin inflate them all away.

Far better off buying some of these zombie banks, all that stinky stuff on their balance sheets is underwritten by the unsuspecting taxpayer.