Credit Unions call for greater Government action
Wexford and Wicklow credit unions affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) held a special meeting on Friday evening in Gorey with Minister of State Michael D'Arcy.
A key point of discussion at the meeting was the recent developments whereby the Central Bank of Ireland has moved to broaden investment regulations for credit unions, allowing them to invest surplus funds in social housing. The ILCU has campaigned long for this and credit unions have welcomed the move.
The ILCU has provided a comprehensive proposal to the Government, in response to its request in 2014, detailing how the surplus funds can be used in the provision of social housing, and is awaiting a response on the establishment of a financial vehicle for this investment.
The meeting is one in a series of meetings which the ILCU is holding with TDs and Cabinet Ministers to call for greater Government action on commitments outlined in the Programme for Government and the Confidence and Supply Arrangement. These include a commitment to develop a strategy for the growth and development of the credit union sector.
ILCU President Charles Murphy and ILCU Vice-President Gerry Thompson joined local credit union representatives at the meeting. They outlined for Minister D'Arcy the potential for credit unions to play an enhanced role in communities across Wexford and Wicklow.
Minister D'Arcy said: 'The Programme for Partnership Government commits to the development of a strategy for growth and development for the credit union sector.
'The Government recognises that the sector requires further support to help overcome the significant challenges it faces and has a clear policy to support the strategic growth and development of credit unions.'
The meeting also discussed further diversification and enhancement of lending services for credit union members. A new operational support service for mortgage lending will be launched in a matter of weeks. The new 'shared service', entitled the Home Loans CUSO (Credit Union Service Organisation), will be piloted in a group of credit unions, with a national roll-out to follow. The service will provide credit unions with a standardised, structured and disciplined framework for the processing and fulfilment of mortgage lending, based on best practice, and in a manner that meets all regulatory requirements.
Credit union micro-loans for social welfare recipients were also discussed at the meeting. 113 credit unions across Ireland are now in a position to offer the loan. There are almost 6,000 live loans via this scheme. Across Wicklow and Wexford, New Ross, Wexford and Wicklow Credit Unions Ltd. are offering the loan.
Credit union delegates reiterated the extent and reach of the movement across the two counties of Wexford and Wicklow. Credit unions in the area have €837 million in assets. Membership in the area has hit 175,000. These members have savings of €712 million and are benefiting from €250 million in fair and affordable loans.