Sandra Overend, Ulster Unionist Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, has called on the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister to provide financial support for Credit Unions to expand their services in NI, in line with other parts of the UK.
Mrs Overend, who is the Ulster Unionist Spokesperson on the Economy, said:
“The motion, brought to the Assembly by the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, is a very welcome one, and one which highlights the work that needs to be done to ensure that our Credit Unions are given the support that they need to offer the best services to local communities.
“Credit Unions are community based financial institutions, set up by the public with a community led ethos. They perform a vital and necessary duty in offering financial services to those who are at most need and who might not have access otherwise. Credit Unions also fill many gaps in the financial sector, especially for people in rural areas, which have seen many bank closures in small towns and villages. In the Credit Union people have a local, viable and reliable option.”
Mrs Overend, who sits on the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, continued,
“However, the services that the Credit Union can provide currently are limited here in Northern Ireland, and this motion has been introduced to the House so that we can begin to address the limits to Credit Unions, assess where expansion is viable, and offer our support to expanding their services where necessary. Credit Unions in the rest of the UK have been given financial support to assist them to develop their services, and expand to allow them to provide current accounts and enhanced lending and saving facilities.
“The Ulster Federation of Credit Unions and the Irish League of Credit Unions have both shown their desire to expand their services, in line with developments in the rest of the UK. It is important, however, that any expansion should be done on a fair and proportionate basis, and that local branches are consulted fully on the proposed expansion of services. Credit Unions, as community led organisations, are highly distinct and have area-specific methods, catering to their own individual clients. It is important that any proposed changes are fully developed through engagement with each suggested branch, and with the community in mind.
“What is certain is that a number of Credit Unions here are ready for expansion, and the Government must provide the correct assistance to allow them to develop, for the benefit of the communities who use their services.”