Money: In credit unions we trust - but get the vicar on board anyway

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The Independent Online
Several organisations can assist in forming a credit union. Two national bodies exist to help develop and register unions - the National Federation of Credit Unions, and the larger and more professional Association of British Credit Unions. In some places co-operative development agencies will help, and in others community development workers employed by the local authority will assist. A phone call to the council should establish whether local support is available.

A credit union will only work if supported by a wide range of local people, and it is better to get people involved as soon as possible. Local authorities, parish councils, vicars, tenants' and residents' groups and pubs have all supported local credit unions. Get opinion-formers to spread the word. Establish a core of 10 or so people to be trained in running a union: the ABCU runs courses. Approach local businesses, such as co-op stores, to ask for sponsorship. The Co-operative Bank specialises in bank facilities for credit unions, and may be able to arrange for Post Office branches to act as collecting points for depositors. Write to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, which registers and regulates credit unions. It will insist on a core group of trained volunteers, at least 22 members, adequate finance and a common link between members, which may be locale, workplace or occupation.

Sign up supporters, who must be willing to save regularly, as well as members who want to borrow after they have been depositing for a period. Then launch the credit union with a fanfare of local publicity, involving local papers and radio stations, politicians, and all the community groups you can think of.

Contacts: Association of British Credit Unions, 0161 832 3694; National Federation of Credit Unions, 0191 257 2219.