Launch of SoundPound loan across Greater Manchester
By Sheenagh Young, CEO South Manchester Credit Union, Chair of SoundPound Consortium
February 15th was a day to celebrate a milestone for our Greater Manchester Consortium of Community Credit Unions, known as SoundPound. We stood together with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, underneath the Abraham Lincoln statue in Manchester city centre and launched our SoundPound loan. This is the latest of our local responses to the ongoing affordability crisis and is a harmonised offer to communities across Greater Manchester (GM). This loan is for £200 -£1000 and is open to applications from people with squeezed finances who are new to credit unions.
Recent data indicates that a quarter (24%) of Greater Manchester residents are seeking information or support for the first time, reinforcing how the cost of living crisis is bringing financial concerns to those not traditionally experiencing them (source :Greater Manchester Residents Survey Wave 5). We are responsible moneylenders based in our local communities and we have gathered intelligence about the local market for personal credit.
People are trying to stretch and extend existing lines of credit. Banks are disengaged, overdraft charges are opaque and we see many trapped making minimum payments on high credit card balances. There are significant gaps in practical financial education, especially for younger people aged 18-30. The numbers of people turning to friends and family is increasing and this can include inappropriate illegal lending with all the damage that brings.
We know that a small personal loan at the right time can stabilise household finances and protect other priority payments like council tax, rent and utilities. In the last year, we have lent £28m to GM residents. We consider that we now offer the safest, cheapest option for a loan up to £1,000 here in GM. And no other lender also encourages people to kickstart a spending habit.
Credit unions have been active in Greater Manchester for more than 30 years and there are now 14 based here. Of these, the 8 community based credit unions banded together in 2016 to form our consortium which is unique in England. We joined forces in order to amplify our existing financial services offer and to work together on potential collaborations across the city region. Together we hold more than £48 m of assets which have been built up from deposits and borrowing by 66,000 GM residents. These same residents have together accumulated £6m in financial reserves in our consortium credit unions. The funds stay local, can facilitate a dividend and fuel future sustainability. We represent a proven way to build local community wealth and get capital working for the long term financial wellbeing and resilience of communities across GM.
SoundPound comprises 8 community credit unions and between us we cover Greater Manchester; CashBox Credit union (Tameside), HOOT Credit Union (Bolton), Manchester Credit Union, Oldham Credit Union, Salford Credit Union, Stockport Credit Union, South Manchester Credit Union and Unify Credit Union (Wigan)
We want to encourage more people to come and find the benefits of belonging to a credit union. Andy Burnham offered to raise our profile and he accepted our #SoundPoundchallenge which is open to everyone to enjoy taking part – find out more about this and our #Save Rave on our website and get involved.
There is a clear link between mental health and confidence with money management, especially right now. The current crisis comes on top of the impact of Covid and many are overwhelmed. Local credit unions continue to provide our service in solidarity with communities. Members tell us that belonging to their
local credit union helps make money work for them and brings the fun back into life.