A CREDIT union in South Tyneside is bidding to keep people out of the hands of loan sharks and high-interest lenders.
The Bridges Community Bank, based in Sunderland Road, The Nook, South Shields, aims to attract more customers with a series of new offers.
They include loans starting at just 7.5 per cent annual percentage rate (APR), new loans up to £10,000, free life cover for savings and new web-based services.
The credit union says it is trying to fill the gap left by banks reluctant to provide loans and also persuade people not to go to pay-day loan firms or illegal lenders.
The move was welcomed as “fantastic” by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who recently made a fact-finding visit to the bank.
She said: “It is fantastic news that an already forward-thinking credit union like Bridges is making further enhancements to its offer.
“We are all aware of the extortionate rates pay day loan companies operate, but many don’t realise they have an affordable alternative on their doorstep in the form of Bridges.
“It is very easy to give in to the temptations of an advert promising cash in 10 minutes, but a lot of people don’t stop to consider the cost in the long run. Bridges doesn’t promise money in minutes, but it can help people through difficult times in a responsible way.”
Dave Fleetwood, chairman of Bridges, said: “Credit unions have long been viewed as ‘the poor man’s bank’, but this is a myth.
“We want to change people’s perception. While we continue to provide smaller loans and serve those customers who struggle to access mainstream credit, we also want to attract a more diverse membership.
“This will not only help our business to become sustainable and move away from reliance on grants, it will ensure we can continue to support those most in need.”
As a credit union, Bridges has the largest membership in the North East, with more than 9,000 adult and 1,400 junior members.
For details, call 454 7677.