By their very nature and structure, community based credit unions are a good local solution. Membership is only open to those who live or work within a specified area known in credit union terms as the “Common Bond”. The two largest credit unions in Cornwall have the same Common Bond – Cornwall and the Isles of Scillies.
It has been estimated. If all the interest payments made in a single week to non-Cornish Banks, Building Societies and other lenders; by companies and individuals based in Cornwall were paid in One Pound Coins it would require six large articulated trucks to move the cash from Cornwall to London.
Now credit unions cannot answer all the problems. At present credit unions are not able to offer accounts to businesses, other than sole traders. Where credit unions can make a difference is in individual finance.
All credit unions are cooperatives, owned and run by their members. Each member has a single voting share – regardless of how much money they have saved in their account, or the size of their loan. They are, what is termed, “a not for profit company”! This is misleading, credit unions strive to make a profit. However when a profit is declared, those profits are used for the benefit of the membership, paid in the form of a dividend.
A credit union is run by its members. Each year there is an A.G.M. members are elected to the Board of Directors for a term of 3 years, each year one third of the Board stand down. At the AGM the annual dividend is set.
One thing that worries people is security. “How safe are my savings?” is often the question asked. Credit Unions are regulated by the FSA, the same as banks and building societies, (but without the so-called “light touch”! which was applied to the banks). Savings in credit unions are covered by the same Financial Services Compensation Scheme as covers savings in banks and building societies.
Credit Unions recycle money back into the local community. At present approximately two thirds of the money saved with Kernow Credit Union, is out on loan to members. Although it is inevitable that some of this money is spent outside Cornwall, a large percentage is spent on locally purchased goods and services. This is not only to the benefit of members of the credit union, but also benefits the wider community. The more people who save and borrow with their local credit union the greater beneficial impact the Cornish credit unions will have on the Cornish economy.
Kernow Credit Union’s strapline is:
Erbysyon ha Gendonow Ewnhynsek ha Teythyek
Local and ethical savings and loans
For anyone who claims to be a Cornish Nationalist, a Cornish credit union is the only answer. If a nationalist saves and borrows with a UK bank or other financial institution, they are supporting those institutions’ shareholders, and the bankers’ bonuses. Credit Union directors are by law unpaid. The paid employees of credit unions do not receive bonuses. Many of the people in a credit union are unpaid volunteers.
At present there are 4 credit unions in Cornwall, however I am only mentioning 2 of them as the 2 smaller ones are in the process of merging with one of the larger credit unions – Kernow Credit Union. These mergers are not because the credit unions have accounts problems, but because alone they cannot generate the income to pay employees. Merger with Kernow Credit Union was seen as the best option.
Therefore realistically the choice is between these two credit unions.
Kernow Credit Union Ltd., the head office is The Chambers, Penryn Street, Redruth. Telephone 01209 314449. When the merger process has come to a conclusion, it will have service points from Bude, down to Saltash and as far as Carbis Bay.
The other choice is a credit union operating under the trading name, Cornish Community Banking based in 11a Francis Street, Truro. Telephone 0800 0556873.
The two smaller credit unions are: North Cornwall Credit Union (Telephone 01840 213841) and SECCURE South East Cornwall Credit Union (Telephone 01579 346999). Other information on credit unions in Cornwall is on the Cornwall Council Website.
This article does not form the official view of any Cornish credit union. I have written as an individual, and have represented my personal view. Although I have tried to ensure that contact information for the credit unions is accurate.