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Rochester churches encouraging couples to use credit unions instead of payday loan firms to fund weddings

By KentOnline reporter

Kent couples looking for cash to fund their special day are being encouraged to borrow from credit unions rather than banks or payday loan companies.

With the average wedding costing £24,000, many young couples take out hefty loans to help them pay for the big day.

From today, vicars in the Diocese of Rochester are offering free vouchers to almost-weds to cover the joining fee of their local credit union, which is typically £2 or £3.

Rochester Cathedral needs to raise £10m for its Music Endowment Fund.
Rochester Cathedral needs to raise £10m for its Music Endowment Fund.

The diocese has partnered with Kent Savers, Medway Credit Union and Greenwich and Bexley Credit Union.

"We're really excited to see who the first couple to use the vouchers are," said Caroline Clarke, officer and community engagement advisor for the Diocese of Rochester.

"Of course, if they don't end up getting married the voucher won't be taken away."

Ms Clarke doesn't think the initiative will encourage people to borrow money but it will reduce the risk of them taking out a dangerous payday loan.

She said: "Credit unions have the best interests of their members at heart, they're not looking to make big profits,"

"People often see them as 'the poor man's bank' but that's really not the case. We need to reeducate ourselves to understand there are other ways of getting loans.

"We are very concerned about vulnerable people - like students and old people - who are preyed on by doorstep lenders.

"We want them to see that there's another way of managing their finances."

The initiative is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's #TOYOURCREDITCAMPAIGN, which encourages people to engage in responsible credit.

From left, Ashley Long and Sophie-Rose Bance, the fairy tale themed wedding
From left, Ashley Long and Sophie-Rose Bance, the fairy tale themed wedding

It comes after the church was criticised for indirectly holding a £75,000 stake in the controversial payday loan company Wonga through an investment fund.

This was despite payday lenders being on the Church of England's list of prohibited investments.

In 2013 Archbishop Justin Welby admitted that it was "very embarrassing" that Church money had been invested in Wonga.

Credit unions, which are not-for-profit, often don't have high street branches and are usually run by volunteers, receive far less publicity than banks and payday loan companies.

However, they allow people to borrow money at a much lower interest rate and encourage them to save at the same time.

By law the amount of interest charged by a credit union can be no more than 3 per cent a month on the reducing balance of a loan.

Some credit unions charge just 1 per cent interest per month on a loan, which is an APR - annual percentage rate - of 12.68 per cent.

In comparison, payday loan company Wonga charges £24 in interest for a loan of £100 after one month (an APR of 1,509%).

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