The merger of two community banks is proving a prudent decision, bringing benefits to members and strengthening the region’s credit union movement.
NEFirst Credit Union and Prince Bishops Community Bank merged on 1 June after a detailed review concluded it would be in the best interests of members and the wider population of County Durham.
Durham County Council has supported the directors during the merger to help ensure a smooth transition. Existing members’ savings and loans will not be affected in any way and they should continue to access all services in the usual way.
The council’s Durham Savers Project continues to work with the new organisation, NEFirst Credit Union, to help develop savings schemes with employers and schools across the county.
Credit unions are not-for-profit social enterprises which are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They provide secure savings accounts, low interest loans and free life insurance.
Following the merger, NEFirst credit Union has 16,000 members across the region, shares in excess of £4.5m and a loan book of more than £3.5m.
Cllr Jane Brown, the council’s Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “Credit unions offer a stable and straight forward way for people to save. They also provide a much safer alternative to pay-day loan companies, pawn brokers and door-step lenders, with far lower interest rates. However, they have been underused in this country for decades, with just three per cent of the UK population credit union members.
“The merger of these two respected credit unions will help to strengthen the credit union movement in the North-East as a whole, helping people to reduce their debts and save for a brighter future.”
Peter Mackie, chairman of NEFirst Credit Union, said: “This merger is good news for people in County Durham and across the North East. We look forward to helping more and more families with sensible savings and affordable loans.”
NEFirst Credit Union was formed by the merger of a number of smaller North-East based credit unions which have been providing savings and loan accounts for more than twenty years. It is continuing to develop its services and now offers a debit card for its members.
Anyone who lives or works in County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear is eligible to join. To find out more, visit www.nefirstcu.co.uk/
The Durham Savers project is part of the council’s wider strategy aimed at tackling poverty and changing the debt culture into a savings culture. More information can be found online at www.durham.gov.uk/durhamsavers