Lambeth Citizens launch financial resilience strategy with Lambeth Council

Rabbi  Janet and Lambeth Council
Rabbi  Janet and Lambeth Council

Rabbi Janet Darley and Jane Bevis of Lambeth Citizens speak at launch of the Lambeth Financial Resilience Strategy

On Monday 14th July, Lambeth Citizens and Lambeth Council joined forces to launch their Financial Resilience Strategy for the borough.

At a launch event in Lambeth Town Hall, Lambeth Citizens leaders spoke about their campaign to tackle the spread of pay day loan shops and civil society’s role in reducing poverty.

There were also speeches from Cllr Paul McGlone, Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council and Lucky Chandrasekera, Chief Executive of London Mutual Credit Union.

The strategy, produced by the Council in partnership with community stakeholders, including Lambeth Citizens, aims to improve the financial situation of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.

The strategy focuses on eight key areas, including increasing the number of Living Wage employers, strengthening Credit Unions and tackling the rise in problematic debt caused by payday loans. These strategic outcomes are based on extensive work to understand the financial problems of Lambeth residents, including a six-month community Listening Campaign by Lambeth Citizens.

Listening Campaigns see local leaders in community institutions, such as churches and schools; carry out one-to-one conversations and group discussions to understand the real concerns of their friends and neighbours. In Lambeth, low pay and debt were issues raised again and again.

Rabbi Janet Darley of South London Liberal Synagogue said:

“In Lambeth, our Listening Campaigns have highlighted the reality that hundreds of people are living with insurmountable financial problems due to problematic debt. The impact of these problems is felt by people at all stages of life, from all backgrounds and in all situations. We are on the front line of these problems; we are the first to hear the stories and the first to feel the impact. We provide daily pastoral and financial support to those in desperate need because we have the relationships which make this possible.”

Tom Chigbo, Citizens UK Community Organiser, said:

“The Financial Resilience Strategy is the culmination of months of work to listen to and understand the financial problems faced by Lambeth residents. It’s great to now be working alongside Lambeth Council and other organisations on a range of projects to tackle these problems. Together we will be co-hosting an employer event to explain the benefits of the Living Wage to Lambeth based businesses, which we hope will see a number of businesses commit to implementing the Living Wage.”

Barbara Wilson, co-Chair of Lambeth Citizens, said:

“Community leaders from across Lambeth have contributed towards this strategy and we are looking forward to working with the Council to deliver its outcomes. Civil society organisations are at the front line of these problems, providing daily pastoral and financial support for thousands of people in Lambeth. By working together, our collective efforts are stronger.”

The launch marks a commitment from Lambeth Council,and civil society to work together on a range of activities to support residents of the borough to escape debt and poverty. Both are looking forward to building on this relationship by working together on this and other issues.

The Lambeth Financial Resilience Strategy has 8 strategic outcomes:

* More people earning the London Living Wage
* More people with access to the financial products they need
* A reduction in problematic debt
* More people getting the benefits and credits that they are entitled to
* More people can manage their money on-line
* More people feel able to manage their finances and cope with unexpected financial outlays
* A reduction in fuel poverty
* A reduction in food poverty

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Posted in All, Community Organising, Living Wage Campaign, London Citizens, Partnerships, South London

Another step forward on the long, long road to fair credit

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David Barclay, Faith in Public Life Officer at the Contextual Theology Centre, and organiser on the Citizens UK Just Money campaign writes:

This is the day that many thought would never come. It is now almost five years since a group of churches, mosques and synagogues in the civil society alliance Citizens UK began to call for a re-introduction of anti-usury laws to stop people being exploited by excessive interest rates. Today, finally, plans have been announced for a total cost of credit cap.

And yet it is a day of some disappointment for the many campaigners who have worked so hard for this as they examine the proposals put forward by the FCA. The 0.8% per day cap would take just £1 off the industry average loan price, while the 100% total cost of credit cap would still mean that companies can maximise their profits by lending to people who they think won’t be able to pay back on time.

The Citizens UK Just Money campaign has already seen too often the impact of these practices. Take Sarah for example, a student at the University of East London who took out a payday loan when her student loan didn’t come through on time and ended up with her debt spiralling out of control. Or Deborah, a single mum who took out a loan over a year ago and is still spending most of her child benefit on the repayments.

They have both become actively involved in the Just Money campaign which in the last year has been highlighting the much stronger regulation of this sector in countries like Canada and working for local bans on payday loan adverts from Council-owned spaces. Along with the many others campaigning for a cap they should be enormously proud of the way their refusal to remain a passive victim of an exploitative industry has led to change.

But they will also be rightly angry that this change will not go far enough. The caps proposed would have barely changed the price of the products that Deborah and Sarah were sold. And whilst the proposed cap will put some limit on how much damage any one loan can do, it still won’t stop the common practice of people taking out one payday loan to pay off another. So even if some of the payday lenders’ worst business practices will now be outlawed, they can still shamelessly offer their products to those who are already in debt and then use what’s called a Continuous Payment Authority to get their hands on as much of someone’s income as possible before they have time to spend it on essentials.

If the FCA were really serious on clamping down on exploitative lending they would do three things. Firstly they would bring their caps down to a level that had some real impact on the price of a payday loan. Secondly, they would clamp down on the scourge of multiple loans through a real-time database (already suggested by StepChange debt advice charity and others). And finally they would accept the Just Money proposal to use the fines they collect from payday lenders and banks to endow a Community Finance Fund in order to support more ethical businesses like credit unions.

Only in this way would we start to really see the tide turn on exploitative lending, and prevent the stories of people like Sarah and Deborah from being repeated all over again.

N.B names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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Posted in All, Citizens UK, Citizens' Response to Economic Crisis, Community Organising

Redbridge Citizens Tackling Street Drinking in Ilford

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M20140710_213755oved by the stories of street drinking in Ilford and inspired by other stories of success in taking action against street drinking by Nottingham Citizens, Redbridge Citizens had its first meeting last night to tackle this major issue.

A diverse array of 10 leaders from the Salvation Army Ilford, CityGates Church and the Welcome Centre met to begin discussing what needs to be done to change street drinking in Ilford.

They discussed the power they need to build, the allies they have and the challenges that they face. Excellent research was done by Debbie Forde, and Candice Steen worked hard on the turn-out.

Everyone committed to engage in specific research actions and bring new leaders to the next meeting on 28th August.

Last night was the beginning of a new campaign  where an energised borough alliance and its leaders have decided to take action on an issue they care about. It will become a campaign that will generate new energy and a real sense of ownership of Redbridge Citizens.

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Posted in All, Citizens UK, Community Organising, East London, London Citizens, TELCO