David Barclay is the Centre’s Faith in Public Life Officer, and co-ordinates our work with Citizens UK on the Just Money campaign against exploitative lending.
Here he blogs on some Advent action in Hackney to get the Council to clamp down on adverts for payday loans – after the campaign’s recent success in Tower Hamlets.
A delegation of 20 leaders from Hackney Citizens has presented a petition to the Council calling for a ban on payday loan adverts from billboards and bus shelters in the Borough. The petition, which gathered over 850 signatures, was presented to Cabinet member Jonathan McShane with a distinct Christmas theme, complete with Santa, wrapping and carols.
Over 13 different institutions in Hackney were involved in collecting signatures, and in just a few weeks were able to pass the 750 threshold needed to force a debate in a full Council meeting. Councillor McShane agreed at the presentation to arrange a meeting between Hackney Citizens and Mayor Jules Pipe prior to the Council meeting to discuss how civil society can join forces with the Local Authority to restrict exploitative lending and promote affordable credit in the community. The action was covered in this week’s edition of the Hackney Gazette.
Before accepting the petition, Councillor McShane listened to three stories of the impact of payday lending from leaders in Hackney Citizens. This led to a short but very positive exchange about the opportunity for credit unions to innovate with new products that can protect people from being trapped by payday lenders in spirals of debt.
Colleen Beasley, who has been helping collect signatures on behalf of St John’s Church in Hoxton and who gave her own testimony to Councillor McShane, said: “One of the reasons for the Just Money campaign is to actually open up a dialogue within the community between people, so that people feel more comfortable talking about their financial worries and about debt issues, and where they actually go to resolve those issues.”
This action came just a few weeks after a similar petition successfully persuaded Tower Hamlets Council to change their policy and ban payday loan companies from advertising on Council-owned space.
It has been extraordinary to see the energy of people in Hackney to act together on this issue of payday lending in their Borough. Payday loan companies are causing misery for millions of people across the UK, but the fightback starts when people get together in their local community and resolve to do something constructive about it. Now we look forward to building a strong working relationship with the Council on this crucial issue.