Loan sharks bring old foes together

IN this season of goodwill, an old cynic is positively uplifted as Glasgow's Labour and SNP councillors sing from the same Christmas song sheet.

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They have parked party politics in a bid to direct ill will towards legal loan sharks.

These austere times have seen a payday lender shop slither on to almost every high street, usually sandwiched between a bookies, a charity shop, or a takeaway.

You've also seen their telly ads, seducing the desperate and the unwary to borrow £100 and pay back £125 next month.

Nothing wrong with that, you may think, a reasonable and invaluable service.

But they fail to mention eye-watering interest rates, rising into the thousands if you don't repay on time.

Glasgow Labour MP Ann McKechin even Tweeted about a staggering loan APR of 7.2million%.

Only Westminster can legislate to curb payday predators, but we know Tory history with fat-cat companies.

Multi millionaire Adrian Beecroft, chairman of Dawn Capital who have a large stockholding in Wonga, is a Tory adviser and major party contributor.

Councillors want Glasgow to emulate Dundee and block access to payday websites from council-owned computers, such as in libraries. It smacks a bit of the nanny state, but at least they recognise something must be done.

If it prods their colleagues at Holyrood into action then so much the better.

Internet lending is one of the few UK growth industries, and no wonder.

Regulation-free UK is open sesame for payday lenders, who can't operate with such impunity even in America.

Legislation is meant to be on the way from a new Financial Conduct Authority, when it's hoped astronomical interest rates may be capped, if not banned.

But new laws will not come into force before 2014. The snouts will be deep in the trough until then.

The Office of Fair Trading is investigating 20 payday lenders.

How about stopping payday lenders dipping uninvited into customers' bank accounts if they miss a payment?

These firms know that half of borrowers can't repay loans.

So it's immoral that people already heavily in debt are offered even more money. Debt counselling is what they need, and I don't mean payday helplines at 10p-a-minute.

Some people are desperate through no fault of their own, such as redundancy.

THEY will use loans to pay rent, heating bills and food and repay them.

But many become trapped in a debt spiral, borrowing from one lender to pay another (the supposedly better-off do exactly the same, juggling debt between credit cards). Others just as poor get by without running up heavy debt.

They can't afford booze, fags, mobile contracts, Sky TV, must-have pressies for the kids. So they do without, like your granny did.

Unfortunately, in today's throwaway, must-have society, too many don't know the difference between want and need.

I suggest the Coalition divert some foreign aid billions to our trusty credit unions. Unlike corrupt current recipients – and UK banks – they may get their money back.

Finance

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