Monmouthshire Labour leader calls for payday lender ban
2:11pm Thursday 5th September 2013 in Gwent news
MONMOUTHSHIRE'S Labour group leader is to call for access to payday lenders to be banned from computers owned by the region’s council.
Councillor Dimitri Batrouni wants Monmouthshire networks, including publicly accessible computers in the county’s libraries, to bar users from looking up websites that offer quick money at high interest rates.
He believes Monmouthshire, if it adopts the idea, would be the first authority in Wales to make such a move in the wake of similar bans in England and Scotland.
A payday lenders' trade body expressed concern at the proposal.
Cllr Batrouni, who will make the call in a motion to council later this month, said: “We’re going to ask for all council networks and council computers to screen out payday lenders' websites.
“It’s so we can make a statement saying if you are in financial trouble those sites and firms don’t offer the best way out, particularly with 2000 per cent interest rates.
“There’s a price you pay for having quick access to cash. Credit unions offer more competitive interest rates and will be better for you in the long term.
“It’s important that we get a cross party consensus on this. Considering the ruling group’s support of the Gateway credit union I don’t think they will be totally opposed to it.”
Several councils in England and Scotland, including Plymouth, Cheshire East and Renfrewshire, have either banned payday loan websites from their computers or from council-owned billboards.
A spokesperson for Monmouthshire council said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a motion to council prior to it being published, let alone discussed. But it is reasonable to remind people that MCC supports alternatives to payday lenders.
“We are a full corporate member of Gateway Credit Union and have deposited the maximum amount possible - £15,000 - with them. We support the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Monmouthshire and cabinet will discuss taking that support forward at their next meeting.
“In addition, with our support the county's housing associations operate a range of financial training and support packages for their tenants.”
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association which represents some of the UK’s largest payday lenders, said: "Monmouthshire Council is clearly entitled to take any action it deems necessary and we would support any initiatives that drive out irresponsible lenders.
“However, we would be concerned that, without evidence of its impact, this action prevented people in South Wales having access to responsible credit providers.”
Payday and short-term lenders have been the subject of concerns at their high interest rates and claims that borrowers are using the loans to fund debts.
Stella Creasy, the MP for Walthamstowe who has run a national campaign over the issue, has quoted research claiming half of all borrowers who have taken out a payday loan knew that they couldn’t repay, with 57 per cent missing repayments as a result.
However the industry body the CFA said short-term loans compare well with other consumer alternatives, and that responsible lenders do not lend to those unable to pay back.
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