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Bradford Council is urged to help tackle loan sharks
Councillors joined forces last night to call for Bradford Council to help support credit unions in the district ahead of the introduction of major benefit changes later this year.
It comes amid fears that the Universal Credit single payment could see people on tight budgets falling prey to illegal money lenders and loan sharks.
Universal Credit, which replaces Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance, is part of the Government's welfare reforms.
It means claimants will receive any support for their housing costs directly on a monthly basis, rather than having benefit paid direct to their landlord.
The worry is that these changes will mean there is likely to be greater demand for credit from communities that are excluded from the mainstream banking system.
As a result Labour put forward the original motion, but it was a slightly amended version from the Conservatives, that made its way through the Council chamber last night.
Councillor Martin Smith (Ilkley) spoke about the work done to combat loan sharks in the district and called for a progress report on the issue every six months.
The motion will now see the Council seeking to work with partners to expand the services and facilities of credit unions through the district and looking to raise awareness of the services they offer.
“What the Council can do is to support credit unions within the district so they can provide affordable credit to people who could otherwise become trapped in a cycle of debt,” he said.
He said that credit unions also try to foster a savings culture within their members, encouraging them to save even just a small amount each month, where possible.
It follows the announcement earlier this month that the district's biggest social housing group, Incommunities, is offering thousands of tenants a cash incentive of £10 to join a credit union.