Regional credit union Moneywise is branching out its services to savers across Sunderland.
The credit union already has more than 14,000 members and has received the backing of the City Council as a more local and ethical alternative for saving and lending.
There are already more than 300 credit unions across the country, and Moneywise is open to all who live or work in most of the North East of England. This includes Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.
Council research has estimated that around £12m annually leaks out of the city in extra interest payments to high cost lenders, rent to own stores and payday lenders.
Moneywise offer a range of loans and interest rates ranging from personal loans, pay day loans, and saving plans, including payroll deductions. Every pound saved by members helps to lend money out into the community. Each account is also protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which covers savings up to £85,000.
The loans provided by Moneywise are also at competitive rates compared to other credit unions. You can check and compare how much it would cost to borrow by Clicking here.
Credit Unions such as Moneywise are even more important during the current pandemic. Many residents have been furloughed or have had their hours reduced, meaning that they could be struggling with money. Moneywise can help people save, meaning if similar situations happen again residents will have a safety net that they can fall back on without worrying about money.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller said: "One of the most important parts of tackling financial exclusion and tackling poverty is creating better credit and debt solutions.
"Most people at some point in their lives need access to credit and the council wants to see affordable options because nobody should be having to resort to illegal lending and extortionate rates.
"It can be good for Sunderland if council staff and other city-based workers save in the new Moneywise Sunderland credit union to help make it more sustainable. Personally, I will be saving about £50 every month in my new account.
"This is a co-operative council and credit unions are co-operative solutions helping to create a financial community where members of the credit union mutually benefit because there's no profit for shareholders.
"Credit unions are for everyone, not just the poor, and a good credit union with a mixed economy of customers can be very useful for those who cannot get access to ordinary bank products.
Chair of Moneywise, Phil Goad said: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Sunderland City Council in delivering the Affordable Credit Solution to the staff of the council and the residents of the City.
"As a regional provider of Affordable Credit, we are an ethical alternative to the high cost lenders that concentrate on the financially excluded of our region and end up costing them more money. We are a viable alternative for savers and borrowers alike."
Anyone interested in saving money through Moneywise can apply here for free. The process involves filling out a short form, which includes providing information on your current employment and savings.
In addition to backing the Moneywise credit union, the City Council is actively working to discourage illegal lenders. The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) has been working with Credit Unions since 2013, raising awareness of the threats loan sharks present to communities while offering an alternative to save regularly or enable people to obtain legal, affordable loans, when emergencies arise. In November last year, working with the ILMT, two Sunderland properties were raided and two people arrested on suspicion of illegal lending.