Special account lifeline

PEOPLE across Norfolk denied access to high street bank accounts are being offered a financial lifeline following the expansion of the county's credit union services.

PEOPLE across Norfolk denied access to high street bank accounts are being offered a financial lifeline following the expansion of the county's credit union services.

From Monday daily life is set to become easier for thousands of disadvantaged residents who are penalised by financial exclusion, thanks to the launch of a special bank account open to all.

Norfolk County Council has provided �150,000 to fund the tie-up with Norfolk Credit Union - becoming the first council in the region to help set up a current account for residents.

The account will allow salaries, pensions or benefits to be paid directly into it; access to cashpoint machines; setting up of direct debits and standing orders; VISA debit payments in shops and online and a cash back facility.

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Users will have to pay 98p a week to use the account, but should still save money because monthly direct debits are usually 10pc cheaper than other ways of paying for utilities.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Having listened to how residents, businesses and partners felt we could most effectively help people in Norfolk through the recession, we decided that the establishment of the Norfolk Credit Union Current Account would make a huge difference to the lives of a large number of people across the county.

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“People who can often least afford to be paying higher rates for goods and services, simply had no choice to do so - having to pay higher upfront rates.

“They also had a host of other issues that come with not having a bank account - ranging from gaining employment other than cash-in-hand, to the security aspect of having to store their cash, and of course carrying it before paying for goods. They are also totally excluded from the benefits of on-line shopping that many of us take for granted.

“This should now be a thing of the past. A one pound membership fee and one pound deposit is all that's needed to join Norfolk Credit Union and get the account started.”

Around 19pc of people in England do not have a bank account, with Norfolk believed to mirror that rate, and upfront cash payment is the only way of life - often meaning they have to incur higher charges and interest when paying for services in cash, as well as having to store and carry cash.

It is also much more difficult to get a job without a bank account, with very few employers operating a cash-in-hand environment.

Alan Squirrell, President of Norfolk Credit Union Ltd, said the County Council funding coupled with extra cash from other public sector partners, would help in its ongoing fight against loan sharks and illegal lenders.

“We already know that we are hurting these lenders,” he said. “We want to drive them out of Norfolk. They charge vastly excessive rates of interest to people who can least afford it. A Credit Union can provide the most cost effective option. The more people that use us, the better we will be able to serve everyone in the community.”

Members of the public wanting to find out more information about the Norfolk Credit Union Current Account, or any other Norfolk Credit Union products, should contact 01508 533842 or email info@norfolkcu.co.uk

How credit unions can help you - see Money Matters in Saturday's EDP.

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