We’re now well into the run-up to Christmas, and across the whole country thoughts will inevitably be turning towards making plans to get the presents, food and other items that are considered necessary to put on a great celebration. Unfortunately, many people may find themselves being stretched to the limit financially to achieve this. The Money Advice Trust, an independent charity, warned that in January last year one in eight people struggled to make ends meet after spending on Christmas the previous month. Worse still, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people who borrowed money for Christmas in December 2014 were still paying off loans from the previous years’ festivities, piling debt on top of debt.
We know that managing finances, especially in hard economic times, can be a challenge for some people in Tameside. Many experiencing such difficulties, often through little or no fault of their own, are driven to turn to payday lenders and loan sharks for a short-term cash boost. This may seem like a quick and easy way out of a tight spot, but eye-watering interest rates, often as high as several thousand percent in the case of some payday loans, can very quickly make a bad situation worse if even one repayment is missed.
The Council and its partners have several different programmes to help people avoid, or recover from, the scourge of unmanageabledebt. For these seeking advice our welfare rights service offers free, confidential and impartial debt advice on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month, 9:30-12 at Clarence Arcade in Ashton. The Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau and other agencies also run a joint service called the Money Information Network Tameside (MINT) which aims to not only give people advice about debt, but also to give people the tools and skills to avoid the debt trap in the first place.
We also provide safe and affordable credit options to help people who want or need a loan out of the hands of loan sharks and payday lenders. The Cashbox Credit Union allows you to deposit money like a normal bank account which you can then borrow against at a rate of 26.8% APR. The National Housing Federation have also set up a service called My Home Finance, which provides people who cannot access high street lending with financial advice and allows them to borrow money at far lower interest rates than payday loan companies, around 69.5% APR as opposed to Wonga’s 1,509% APR.
The Council and I are determined to grow the Tameside economy, create sustainable, high-quality employment and give every resident the best possible chance to get on. But we know this is a long-term project, and that there are people in financial difficulty who need our help now, especially over the Christmas period. To those people I say: We are here for you.