Last week in Parliament, Robin Walker was re-elected as Chair of the APPG for Credit Unions in the group’s annual AGM. He joined a Government Minister in launching a new credit union scheme for the Department of Work & Pensions, which will give thousands of Government employees the chance to save through payroll saving and borrow at affordable rates.

Robin has chaired the All Party campaign for credit unions for the last two years and has frequently spoken in Parliament in support of the community based organisations which help people to save and borrow at reasonable rates. The group has cross party support and is regularly attended by members from all parties. At this year’s AGM Robin was supported by Conservative colleagues, Labour MPs, DUP and SDLP members from Northern Ireland, a Lib Dem peer and SNP members. Next week he will be attending the World Council of Credit Unions as it meets in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the first time in four years that the global organisation for the sector comes to the UK.

Following the AGM, the APPG heard from Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare reform who launched the new payroll partnership formed between the Department for Work & Pensions and three credit unions to provide DWP staff with affordable sources of saving and credit.  The meeting also offered a chance to promote the benefits of such partnerships to other government departments following last year’s launch of a similar initiative for the armed forces. There are already credit unions serving the Police, the NHS and postal services but Robin and the all party group have campaigned to widen this reach and the launch of a DWP credit union was a major step forward for this campaign.

Tens of thousands of employees in Britain benefit from payroll deduction to a credit union, credit union membership which gives them an easy and convenient way to save and borrow. The APPG heard how credit unions are now able to extend their ‘common bond’ allowing them to serve many more people so local credit unions can provide services to employees of certain companies across the country.  London Capital Credit Union, for instance, has agreements in place with the Workers’ Educational Association, Veolia Environmental Services and Kier plc as well as with Parliament so that members of Parliament and their staff can sign up for payroll savings.

Through payroll deduction, savings are taken straight from wages before they are paid into bank accounts.  This painless way of saving helps people get a savings habit and also gives them access to affordable loans, other financial services and a source of information about money matters. Employers do not find out whether their employees are paying into a savings pot or paying interest on loans, protecting the privacy of employees whilst also giving them added financial flexibility.

Lord Freud explained to the group how he had written to large employers to urge them to consider the opportunities for payroll saving but he had also decided to make this possible within his own department so as to prove the case for such schemes. Robin praised his approach saying that at a time when trust in politics was low it was good to see a Minister who not only put his money where his mouth was – investing millions in helping the credit union sector to expand – but also one who practised what he preached.

The provision of credit union services to DWP employees will be managed by three credit unions to give complete geographical coverage of the UK. Hull & West Yorkshire credit union will cover the North of England and Scotland, the Voyage Alliance Credit Union, which Robin visited last year during the Conservative Party Conference, will cover the South of England and London and Commsave, the communications workers credit union will cover the midlands. This approach mirrors the approach taken by the Joining Forces Credit Union who are offering payroll saving to the armed forces and are supported by three different UK wide credit unions, the Police Credit Union, Serve & Protect, based in Birmingham, London Mutual and Plane Saver.

The meeting head updates from John Smith CEO of the Hull & E Yorkshire Credit Union, Ralph Griffiths who worked with the MOD to launch the Joining Forces Credit Union last year and Debbie Alder, HR Director of the DWP who explained why having a credit union would make a big difference for staff there. Representatives of the Voyage Alliance Credit Union were at Caxton House, the headquarters of the DWP on the day of the AGM recruiting new members and by the time of the meeting had already signed up over 50 staff to payroll saving.

Commenting on the launch, Robin said:

“It is an exciting time for Credit Unions in the UK and I was delighted to be at the launch of a major step forward for the sector. By helping Government employees to easily access credit unions savings through payroll the DWP is really putting its money where its mouth is and practising what it has preached. Following the £38 million investment in Credit Union Expansion by this Government the next big step is driving take-up and putting in place the machinery for more employers in both the public and the private sector to enable payroll saving.”

“I am delighted to be continuing to lead on the growth the credit union sector in Parliament and was honoured to be re-elected Chairman of the all party group. MPs from all parties have supported the growth of credit unions and we now have more than 1.25 million credit union members across the UK. It was good to hear the Minister confirm his support for our 2020 vision of 2 million members. I am looking forward to welcoming credit unions from around the world to the UK this weekend and continuing to work with this wonderful sector in the weeks and months to come.”

Notes to editors

For more information on the All Party Group see: http://abcul.coop/media-and-research/parliament/appg

For more information on the DWP scheme see: http://www.abcul.org/media-and-research/news/view/724

For details of the credit union involved in the scheme see:

https://www.commsave.co.uk/

http://www.hullandeycu.co.uk/

http://www.voyageralliance.com/

For information on the Joining Forces Credit Union see: http://joiningforcescu.co.uk/

For Robin’s previous press releases on credit unions see: https://www.walker4worcester.com/?s=credit+unions

For information on the upcoming meeting of the World Council of Credit Unions see: http://cuinbelfast2016.org/