Credit unions in the North should be able to offer current accounts, internet and phone banking, standing orders, mortgages, debit cards, direct debits, bill payments, junior savings accounts as well as home, travel, health and car insurance, like their counterparts in England, says Mark Durkan MP.
And Mr Durkan said he will keep up pressure on governments to give the Credit Unions here the opportunities they deserve as he met with former President of the Irish League of Credit Unions Uel Adair to discuss the implications of the recent announcement by the British government to bring Northern Ireland Credit Unions under Financial Service Authority (FSA) regulation.
Mr Durkan, who last year secured a pledge from the Treasury to change the law to allow additional services to be offered to credit unions in the North, said he will continue the fight at Westminster to ensure credit unions here can offer a broader range of services.
He said: “I took this battle for extra services to Westminster with the support of Uel Adair and local credit unions.
“After initial rejections, we secured a pledge in the House of Commons from the Treasury to change the law that has unfairly restricted the activities of credit unions here.
“Credit unions in the North have only been allowed to offer their members a few services. In Britain they can also offer current accounts, internet and phone banking, standing orders, mortgages, debit cards, direct debits, bill payments, junior savings accounts as well as home, travel, health and car insurance.
“To enable them to play a bigger and better role in the lives of their members in Derry and throughout the North – and to make a much bigger contribution to financial inclusion – we need to keep up the pressure on government to give credit unions here the greater opportunities they deserve.
“There are problems which Uel and the credit unions have highlighted in their submissions.
“I will therefore continue to meet and lobby government (in particular the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban) over this important issue of opening up other financial services to credit unions here.
“Credit Unions have a special place in the hearts of Derry people. John Hume was one of half a dozen people who set up Northern Ireland’s first one here in 1960, and since then Derry’s three unions have gone from strength to strength.
“At a time when people are finding it harder to get loans from banks, and when trust in banks has been shattered, credit unions play a vital role in helping people to get through lean times.
“In addition, money in credit unions also stays locally and helps the local economy.”