Michael Sheen opens community bank in Leith in fight against money lenders

Industry News | 17/05/18

The actor and anti-poverty campaigner Michael Sheen has used the occasion of a branch opening of a new community bank in Leith to rally support for his war on high interest lenders.

Speaking at the official branch opening of Castle Community Bank in Leith, the actor known for his roles as Tony Blair in The Queen and Brian Clough in The Damned United spoke to a select audience of community and business leaders, politicians and others involved in the running of credit unions.

The star was returning to Scotland weeks after the launch the End High-Cost Credit Alliance, which he founded as part of his crusade against high-cost lenders – particularly the so-called “pay day loans” companies.

That followed a pledge by the Port Talbot-born actor to devote even more time to the causes he supports, revealing how he is now carefully choosing his acting roles to give him the time and resources for his campaigning work.

Speaking at the launch, Michael Sheen said: “We all have a role to play in promoting fair and responsible credit.

“We know the high cost lenders have huge budgets, extensive technology at their fingertips and the public awareness.

“Despite their high costs and often irresponsible lending behaviour they are still delivering to millions of people across the UK.

“The battle to make credit unions as effective as possible in taking on the high cost lenders can be a challenging one but Castle Community Bank shows us many of the characteristics I think are needed to take an innovatve, bold approach to those challenges.

“Communities all across the UK deserve a fairer, more responsible deal. The sort of deal that credit unions can offer. To help those communities thrive, not just survive.”

Castle Community Bank is a not-for-profit credit union and its directors are all volunteers. It was founded by its Chair, Reverend Iain May, a former banker with RBS and Allied Irish Banks who became a Church of Scotland Minister.

He said: “Since Castle Community Bank was created in 2015 we are proud that we’ve helped more than 1500 people get access to fair and affordable credit.

“Sometimes people mistakenly believe that credit unions are only there for emergencies or for people who are on benefits – but nothing could be further from the truth.

“In fact, every day we provide loans to ordinary people and families across Edinburgh and Lothians enabling them to do the things they want in life – create or improve their family homes, buy a car or to help prepare for and manage life events, like having a baby or planning their wedding.

“We are constantly working to raise our profile and get that message out to more and more people, who may otherwise find themselves falling into a cycle of problem debt by taking out hire purchase agreements or pay day loans at punitive rates of interest which they can’t really afford.

“It’s our very real hope that having Michael cutting the ribbon on our new branch will get our name in front of an awful lot more people who may be interested in finding out more about us and maybe using our services.”
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, who also attended the opening, said:

“Everyone should have access to the financial products they need to help them get on in life, without feeling that they have no choice but to turn to organisations such as payday lenders, which often charge extortionate interest rates, leaving people trapped in a cycle of debt. “

Formed by the merger of Castle Credit Union and North Edinburgh Credit Union, Castle Community Bank now overs a range of savings products as well as loans, available to anyone who lives in an EH postcode.

Unlike a traditional bank, it does not have any shareholders. Rather it is a financial cooperative which also operates as a social enterprise, employing two full-time members of staff and two part-time branch managers supported by a team of volunteers.
Author: Colin Donald