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Thursday 9th June, 2011

They only opened for business in Wigan’s indoor market in the last month, but already the team behind Welcome Credit Union say they’re staggered at the impact the move to a more prominent location has had on footfall.

“Since we opened in May, we’ve had a steady stream of people popping in, sometimes just to say hello,” says Manager, Diane Schanzl. "The market is a fantastic location, right in the heart of the community. We had hoped that by moving to a more visible and accessible location that we’d see a growth in membership, savings and loans, and clearly it's having a positive affect already."

Welcome is a community savings and loan co-operative which shares its profits with members by way of dividend. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, Welcome has the backing of Wigan Council and other partnership agencies including Greater Manchester Police, Citizens Advice Bureau and Age Concern.

Cllr Chris Ready, Wigan council's champion for customer services, is a staunch supporter of credit unions.
Speaking at the official opening of Welcome’s new offices, Cllr Ready says: “Credit unions can turn lives around, especially during an economic downturn when people can find themselves at their most vulnerable.

“I fully support the credit union movement, because by providing a compassionate, practical and businesslike service, these organisations can potentially drive loan sharks out of business and help people in genuine need. What is more, the move to the market will increase footfall, which is great news for the local traders."

Diane adds: “Credit unions offer low interest rates and flexible terms which make them a viable alternative to the high street as well as to those less scrupulous lenders whose extortionate interest rates can literally ruin lives.

"Because they offer healthy returns, credit unions also appeal to savers with a social conscience who want to invest their money sagely, so that they can help make a difference in their community.

“Over the past ten years, Welcome Credit Union has offered an average 3.75% dividend on savings over the past ten years and we’re still growing. We are now stronger than ever – a tribute to the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to deliver our services across the borough.”

Ethel Walsh is one of Welcome Credit Union’s founder members and says she is indebted to it:
“I’ve been involved since day one in Welcome Credit Union, when there were just 5 original members working from the TUC offices in New Market Street.

“Over the past two decades the Welcome Credit Union has made a vast difference to the lives of many people and families in our community, and I personally owe a great deal to it for the assistance it gave me when my family was in need.

“Credit unions are there to help those in genuine need. They provide a stepping stone for people moving on in life, often out of very difficult situations. They are there for the people, by the people - and every community should have one.

Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive of the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd (ABCUL) said: “I’m delighted to hear of the success that Welcome Credit Union has had even in the first few weeks after the move to their new premises.

“We know from the experience of credit unions around the country that being visible and accessible is key to reaching out to as many people as possible. I hope that many more people in Wigan will be encouraged to start saving with their local credit union, just as nearly 1 million people in Britain already do. “

If you’re interested in becoming a member or to find out more call 01942 828720 or visit the offices in Wigan’s Indoor Market Hall.

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