Scheme offers alternative to payday lenders

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

Choice, consumer and community: the three guiding principles of the Tynedale Community Bank.

A local bank, providing an alternative to the big six and casino banks. Savings and loans that are affordable, putting the consumer first and taking people out of the pocket of payday lenders. Banking services that support the community, issuing dividends to local members, and backing local residents and not-for-profit initiatives.

“The Tynedale Community Bank can bring out the very best in our community.”

Last month the Tynedale Community Bank held its first conference, inviting people to hear about its progress.

Launched last year by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, the bank has gone from strength to strength. It now has a membership of nearly 100 people, and one loan has already been repaid. It also plans to expand its number of information points. There is currently one at Hexham Abbey and at Allendale Village Hall, with plans to set up more.

The conference included talks from myself, founder Director Lauren Langton, Chairman of Prince Bishop’s Community Bank Alistair Jenkins, and vicar for the benefice of Haydon Bridge and Beltingham with Henshaw, the Rev Benjamin Carter. The response was extremely encouraging, and it was great to see so many people interested in the bank, and how it can help them and the community.

The bank was set up to provide savings and loans to local people, based in the community of Northumberland, serving the community in Northumberland, and whose dividends go back to that community.

The Tynedale Community Bank provides a real alternative to payday lenders. You do not have to be a saver before you are loaned money. The bank is not based in London, Frankfurt or Hong Kong, does not do PPI, and is not a casino bank. It is a savings and loans community bank, owned and run by its members. It has its roots firmly in the community.

At the very heart of the bank there are three guiding principles: choice, consumer, and community.

You should have a choice over where to save your money, yet there are increasingly fewer options. As it stands, the UK banking market is concentrated in a small number of large banks. The six largest have over 75 per cent of the UK current account market. Not only is your choice of who to save your money with limited, but also where you can access your money. In 1979 there were 20,000 banks, and building society branches for ten million customers. Today, there is half the number of branches, yet five times the number of customers.

There is a desperate need for an alternative, and that is why the Tynedale Community Bank is so important. It aims to provide those who most need it with a local option.

The primary objective of any bank should be to put the consumer first. Often those who need the most support from a loans and savings bank are those who have the least to give, struggling to make ends meet. Instead of being forced into the hands of lenders who can charge 1,000-plus per cent interest, the community bank aims to step in and assist, providing a real and affordable alternative.

The bank also wishes to attract middle class savers. With their support, it can truly put the need of the consumer first.

We have a special community in Northumberland. There is a strong sense of identity, pride, and passion. The Tynedale Community Bank can bring out the very best in our community.

At the conference it was announced that the bank has launched a scheme which will see it working closely with schools. It has teamed up with national charity Young Enterprise on its LifeSavers project, where schools set up their own savings bank. Collection days are held once a week, encouraging children to get into regular saving habits. Work will begin on the scheme in September, with the savings banks starting in January.

This is just one such Tynedale Community Bank initiative, and I want there to be many more. Local people, supporting a local bank that in turn helps invest in the local area, and helps support local people who need it — exactly what a bank should be.