Simon Read: Archbishop's payday plan isn't' a solution to debt misery

I understand why The Most Rev Justin Welby spoke out this week about his intention to "compete" the payday lenders out of business. But the Archbishop of Canterbury's approach to the problems caused by high-cost credit companies won't lead to the right solution.

He wants to boost credit unions, which already provide small loans to their members. The Church of England has already set up a credit union for its own staff and plans to allow credit unions to use its buildings and schools and encourage Church members with the right expertise to volunteer with them.

I'm a fan of credit unions. They can be a fantastic help to struggling people. Indeed, the London Mutual has successfully launched a low-charging alternative to the payday lenders.

But not all unions are well organised. They're co-operatives that have grown in workplaces, for instance, and despite being run by well-meaning people, aren't always successful for a number of reasons.

Reports suggests that some 18 have collapsed in the last couple of years, for instance. That's not generally because of financial irregularity but often because those running them retire and there's no-one else prepared to take on the burden.

For that reason we must ensure credit unions become more professionally run if we really do expect them to leap in to help the millions living in financial misery. And that means greater support from government, beyond just throwing cash at the sector.

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