By Francesca James
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban MP, has confirmed the new Coalition Government's commitment to credit unions and mutuals at a House of Commons reception organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions.
Mark Hoban explained the lessons that are being learnt from the recent past in the financial sector and set out the Government's plans for supporting credit unions as part of its policy commitment to foster diversity in financial services, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.
"We are determined to help credit unions grow and expand into the future. But growth and expansion must be established on the basis of credibility - credibility that can only come as credit unions build sustainability. And it is in the interests of credit unions, the members of credit unions and the movement as a whole that sustainability is built.
"This Government believes that strong credit unions will greatly enrich British society, so it is in our interest to do whatever we can to help the credit union movement to prosper."
Damian Hinds MP, the new chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions, said: "This is set to be an exciting time for the credit union movement with the new opportunities afforded by the Legislative Reform Order, partnership potential with the Post Office, and of course a much sharpened focus on debt as an issue at all levels. I am delighted the All-Party Group on Credit Unions has now been re-formed with very broad support, and I am sure we can play a helpful role in that agenda."
Reverend Antony Macrow-Wood, President of ABCUL - the Association of British Credit Unions, said: "It is good news that the Government will support the valuable work of credit unions and we hope that the new legislation, which will make such a difference to the sector, will complete its passage through Parliament as quickly as possible.
"We look forward to working with the Minister, the new Chair of the APPG and its members, in the coming months and years, to create a credit union sector to be proud of.
"New legislation will help credit unions reach out to many more people. The work we are doing to develop a back office and extend our services through the Post Office will also make credit unions more accessible and convenient and we need to work together to achieve this."
The reception was organised in conjunction with ABCUL - the Association of British Credit Unions - and supported by The Co-operative Bank, which has a long history of backing credit unions through preferential banking services and research. It was attended by credit union staff and volunteers, supportive MPs and Peers, and relevant stakeholders from across the consumer affairs, financial inclusion and financial services industries.
Other speakers included Debbie Wheeler, Head of Charity and Social Enterprise Banking at The Co-operative Bank. Commenting at the event, Debbie Wheeler said: "As a long standing supporter of the credit union movement, we are pleased that the new Government has made this commitment to develop the sector.
"Credit unions can play an important role in a diverse financial services market and, in particular, in helping to tackle financial exclusion."
The reception also marked part of the credit union sector's contribution to the Co operatives Fortnight celebrations which run from 19 June to 3 July.