Cheshire East Council blocks payday loan websites from public computers

First English council to act against the lenders, following a similar move by councils in Dundee and Renfrewshire
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A local council has banned payday loan websites from all its public computers in libraries and other public buildings.

Cheshire East Council took the action on Monday to protect its 370,000 residents after hearing reports of “irresponsible lending and harassment”.

The council’s leader Michael Jones said: “These companies are targeting vulnerable people.”

The local Citizens Advice Bureau has told the council it has been advising people under the age of 18 who have been given loans by irresponsible lenders, while others say they have been drunk when given a loan.

“The lenders are causing serious domestic problems,” said deputy leader David Brown. “Using a payday lender can quite easily lead to a downward spiral and financial misery.”

Cheshire East is the first English council to act against the lenders, following a similar move by councils in Dundee and Renfrewshire.

Concerns about the out-of-control payday lending industry have led Consumer Minister Jo Swinson to call lenders, regulators and other ministers to a summit in Westminster next week.

It will discuss whether the powers of the new City Watchdog - the Financial Conduct Authority - are sufficient to deal with rogue lenders.

"We must make sure the FCA rules are robust and strong and what is needed to stamp out the rogue and irresponsible behaviour of some parts of the industry," Ms Swinson said.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: “It’s high time there was a crackdown on irresponsible lending, so we’re pleased to see the Government putting payday loans firmly on the agenda. 

“Many households are increasingly reliant on payday loans to pay for essentials or clear existing debts. The Financial Conduct Authority takes over regulation of consumer credit next year providing a unique opportunity to clean up this market.”

On Thursday morning the Office of Fair Trading will report its decision whether to refer the payday loan sector to the Competition Commission.

It will also report back on the responses to its written demand to the top 50 payday lenders that they clean up their act.

“The OFT needs to stand firm on moves to improve this market and clamp down on payday lenders who break the rules,” said Mr Lloyd.

Yesterday debt charity Step Change identified five cities - London, Cardiff, Liverpool, Leicester and Birmingham - where average payday loan debts climbed by up to £563 between 2011 and 2012. "These figures offer a frightening insight into how certain communities appear particularly vulnerable to increasingly high levels of high-cost borrowing which could result in serious financial hardship," said Delroy Cornialdi of Step Change.