Interest in credit union helps it soar to all-time high

A South Wales Valleys credit union which began with just three volunteers is now an employer of 10 people with more than 4,500 members and savings of more than £1.1m.

Merthyr Tydfil Borough Credit Union (MTBCU) was set up in 1998 by a group of community activists in response to an increasing number of door-to-door lenders and loan sharks in the area.

The community savings and loan co-operative operated initially from a collection point in Pontmorlais until funding of £50,000 to from the EU-backed South East Wales Community Economic Development (SEWCED) programme in 2011 helped it to refurbish premises at High Street and take on two new members of staff.

Today, the credit union also has 32 satellite collection points – including school collections – and more than 60 volunteers helping to run it.

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and run by a six-Valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen, SEWCED has invested £8.9m in 126 social enterprises since it began in 2010, helping to create 22 social enterprises and 123 full-time jobs.

MTBCU makes its income largely from affordable interest charges on loans to members. It has also developed a working partnership with homelessness charity The Wallich to help people on a low income to find private, rented accommodation.

The credit union’s satellite collection points in various communities make it easier for members who cannot get to the main office – for reasons including being unable to drive and caring for family members – to make payment into their accounts. MTBCU also works with 20 primary schools and a comprehensive school to ‘introduce future members earlier to the ethos of the credit union’.

Manager Delyth Shearing said: “By joining Merthyr Tydfil Borough Credit Union, our members are investing in their community – hospitals, local businesses, schools and charities – and by growing the business we can continue to develop our programmes dedicated to increased financial literacy, confidence and well-being.

“Most importantly, because we are not-for-profit, all our services can be offered to our members in the most competitive and flexible ways.”

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Senior Social Economy Development Officer Adama Sesay said: “MTBCU was established by a group of people who had witnessed first-hand the impact of exorbitant money lenders on the population of the smallest borough in Wales with decades of devastating multiple socio economic and deprivation issues,”

“They decided to take matters into their own hands and make the change they want to see. Today, MTBCU is a thriving and fully functional organisation with over £1.1m in savings.

“The credit union has evolved from saving and lending to delivering wide ranging products and services – and clearly has the potential for long-term sustainability.”