Bolton Council to open white goods shop to stop people turning to payday loans
BOLTON Council could open its own white goods shops — in a bid to stop hard-up residents resorting to payday lenders.
A retail unit selling washing machines, fridges and dryers could pop up on Bolton’s high street next year as part of the council’s £1m anti-poverty strategy.
It follows research carried out by Cllr Kate Lewis, which discovered that most people who start using payday lenders or credit scheme do so when a vital piece of domestic equipment suddenly stops working.
Under the proposal, Bolton’s credit union Hoot and the council would work together to offer people affordable credit to buy the items they need, without the inflated interest rates offered by payday lenders.
A pot of £300,000 has been set aside for the project, as part of a wider look at how the authority can help people spiralling in poverty.
Other plans in the scheme include developing Hoot, providing financial support to food banks to cover their administration costs, and offering better access to money skills and debt advice.
Cllr Lewis said: “When we were doing the consultation these were the priorities that people came up with.
“People told us about problems with referrals for debt advice, with issues with payday lenders and not knowing there was a viable alternative in Bolton.
“The shop is still being developed – we haven’t got the details of what it will be like at the moment.
“But we want the offer to be as near to normality as possible. We don’t want people to feel stigmatised by using it.”
She added: “There is currently a massive stigma around debt, especially with older people, and what has been happening is people get to crisis point and when they can no longer cope then they come to one of our services.
“We want to tell people that debt is not something to be ashamed or and there are lots of other people in the same situation.”
Sean Harriss, chief executive of Bolton Council, said the authority was in a strong position to help people in this way. He said: “We can use our buying power as a council to buy things cheaper – we already do this for lots of things.
“Because our objective isn’t to make money, we can also make the goods cheaper to buy and provide loans that people are able to borrow.”
The proposals will be discussed at the meeting of the Leader’s portfolio today.
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