Bradford District Credit Union celebrated 25 years of existence yesterday, after loaning millions of pounds to local people and amassing more than 6,000 members.

The saving and lending union was set up by Bradford Council in July 1993 to provide a way for Council staff to save money for a special occasion, or to be used as a contingency fund.

It was opened up to all residents across the Bradford district in 2003 and has 6,500 members, with more people signing up every day.

To mark the anniversary, the Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Zafar Ali hosted a celebration dinner in City Hall’s Banqueting Hall yesterday for members, staff and directors of the Union.

Julian O’Neill, chair of the credit union, said: “When the union was formed the UK was struggling out of recession, people were struggling so the Council had the foresight to create the union. It is a different world today but there are lots of similarities to 1993.

“In 2012 we started online banking and started a partnership with Incommunities to provide vulnerable people with an alternative to pay-day lenders, which we are really proud of.

“We run Lifesavers, which gets more children and young people saving their money and learning about finance and budgeting and growing our young members who are the next generation.

“I want to thank the Council for investing in the union in the first place and for its ongoing support, and our members for supporting us and being so loyal over the year."

Present at the dinner was Shaun McNulty, the first member of the credit union, who signed up when working as a gardener at Cliffe Castle Museum & Gardens.

He said: “At the time we just couldn’t save any money, we were just working and had no holidays.

“I thought it might give me some access to money, it took £3 a week and after 15 weeks I got a loan and thought it was great.

“My friends who earned better money were going on nice holidays and we were eating picnics at the side of the road, then the union helped us go on holiday to Majorca which was great.

“It wasn’t about saving for me, it was about accessing money when I needed it, I bought a new car and went to Crete with my mum for her 70th thanks to the union.

“Joining the Union was one of the best things I ever did."

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, added: “It was great to hear from the first ever customer and how it has benefitted his family.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford Cllr Zafar Ali said: “It is a marvellous idea to provide not-for-profit community banking."