In these stringent economic times we all need to think more carefully about being innovative with the money we do have. Saving up for holidays and special occasions or even setting up a small business and seeking advice when things are difficult ‐ all these services are offered by the Credit Union as I was told by our four Holy Trinity volunteers when I went to have a cup of coffee and a chat with them one Thursday morning in the Masonic Hall in Church Street.
Me: What exactly is the Credit Union?
Anne Carter: It is a community based cooperative for savings and loans, run by and for its members.
Me: Can anyone be a member?
Marlene Haffenden: The only condition is that you must live or work in Wiltshire. If you do decide to join we shall ask you for some form of identification such as a bus pass, driving licence or passport. You will also need to bring along a utility bill showing your current address. After you have filled in the application form you will have to pay an enrolment fee of £2.
Me: How did the Bradford collection point come to be set up?
Eve Humphrey: Six years ago someone from the Baptist Church in Melksham approached Bill Matthews about the possibility of setting up a branch here. As Holy Trinity’s contribution he offered a rent free room in Church Hall and asked us if we would staff it from 10.30‐12noon on Thursday mornings. And here we are still!
Me: Does this mean that it is a Christian organisation?
Margaret Harcome: No. It is entirely independent of any religious affiliations.
Me: Can anyone simply drop in and ask for a loan?
Marlene H: Not any more. You must have saved with us for 10 weeks before you qualify for a loan. But having said that your savings could be as little as 50p a week.
Me: What happens if someone comes in who is destitute?
Eve: We talk to them and put them in touch with Wiltshire Moneyline and the Hope Debt Advice Centre in Bradford.
Me: I’d like to know more about loans. For example how much interest you charge and any other special conditions.
Marlene H: We do negotiate individually but most loans are paid within the year. The current interest rate is 2 percent per month (26.8% APR).
Me: How busy are you?
Anne C: Well this morning we’ve had 9 people in making payments and last week we had three new members. Overall there are 600 members in West Wilts.
Me: What would you say is the most satisfying part of the work you do here?
Eve: Oh, helping people. Definitely helping people get their lives sorted.
Margaret H: But there’s also the other aspect which is the satisfaction of knowing that the money invested in the Credit Union directly helps the economy of our community here in Bradford without the fuss and hassle of the big banks.
Me: Do you think the service you provide here could be improved?
Anne C: Of course. We realise that it can be daunting to come in especially for the first time. It could be made a little more user friendly, perhaps with some background music playing and some colourful posters but the great advantage is that we are very central and the rent is very cheap.
Me: Would you like more people to invest in the Credit Union?
Margaret H: Yes, and to borrow too because that’s the way to keep us and the community in business.
To find out more about this worthwhile local service telephone 0772 5895 133.
(This article is from the March 2013 issue of Holy Trinity Church Parish News)