Meeting hears of loan sharks and high rate lenders in West Berkshire
The meeting, arranged by West Berkshire Council’s trading standards department, which discussed the trappings of easy but expensive credit available from payday loan companies also heard that the district was not immune to loan sharks.
Speaking at the meeting was Jim Coghill of Community Savings and Loans (CSL), Berkshire’s Credit Union and Wendy Loades of the Illegal Money Lending Team.
Mrs Loades told the assembled guests, which included West Berkshire district councillors and other key players in the local community, that although the area is generally affluent, it does not mean that illegal lenders or loan sharks are not operating here.
She said: “ People across the country are affected, and it often happens in areas where you least expect it.
“The people most likely to be targeted are females, aged 30 to 40, who are on benefits, but the problem is not limited to people in this category.”
She said that as many as 310,000 households across the country may owe loan sharks a combined £120m.
Those listening, including West Berkshire councillors Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) and David Rendel (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) said these statistics were appalling.
Mr Coghill said that his organisation provided an alternative.
The CSL operates from various offices, including at West Berkshire Council’s offices in Market Street, and Mr Coghill said that they were willing to lend to people who posed a higher risk than most high street banks, thereby taking these people out of the reach of loan sharks.
But Mr Coghill also warned against what he termed ‘legal loan sharks’, lenders who charge extortionately high rates, sometimes several thousand percent, despite the fact that they are governed by the Financial Services Authority.
If you were know of a loan shark acting locally, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks, or contact Eddie van der Walt at the Newbury Weekly News on 01635 564 601.
To contact the CSL, visit www.cslberks.org.