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Home Sittingbourne News Article
Kent Savers Credit Union will be offering savings accounts and loans from its first church-based community branch at All Saints in Murston, Sittingbourne.
The system, which was launched in 2010 to provide affordable financial services to people living in the county, allows members to pay into a not-for-profit organisation that then invests cash and lends it back to people when they are in need.
As credit unions cannot legally charge more than 26.8% interest annually, it is hoped it will tempt people away from taking out payday loans - some of which have rates of more than 5,000% - that they are unable to pay back.
Volunteer staff will run the service in a small room alongside the nave, where customers will be able to pay money and withdraw small cash amounts using a passbook as well as open a savings account, apply for a loan or simply get advice.
Opening hours from Monday, January 20 will be 10am to noon on weekdays.
The partnership with the Diocese of Canterbury was launched in October.
The move came three months after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, vowed to force payday lenders out of business by helping credit unions compete with it by allowing them access to the church's buildings and expertise.
It was later revealed the Church of England had invested indirectly in Wonga, something the Archbishop admitted was embarrassing as he said the church's investment rules should be reviewed.
Chris Hunt, general manager for KSCU, said: "It is a disadvantaged area.
"We're not imagining people queuing round the path. We will see how it goes, but evidence around the country is that credit unions are growing at an increased pace
"There are a couple of advantages to people using us. We're a community organisation – some people don't like to use big organisations.
"Then, of course, because we are local we can understand people's needs better. Banks use national computers to decide if a person can borrow money and if it says no, that's it.
"Whereas we speak to them and make decisions based on that so it may be we give a loan to someone the bank wouldn't."
All Saints' assistant curate, the Reverend Lesley Jones, said: "Many people have told me they are struggling with money, debt, isolation and that they need help.
"This is our response as a church, we want to help in practical ways where we can, and by opening Murston Community Bank as a local branch of Kent Savers we can do that."
Kent Savers was set up at Maidstone Community Support Centre in Marsham Street, and now has around 1,300 members. For further information, visit www.kentsavers.co.uk or phone 0333 321 9050.
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