The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are working with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to educate residents on safe borrowing and the dangers of using loan sharks.
Together with Staffordshire North & Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice, officers from the IMLT will be present on Miners’ Estate in Kidsgrove this week to deliver illegal money lending training to local tenants and debt advocates.
On Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 November, a representative from the IMLT will be speaking to local organisations and residents about the impact of loan sharks and how to spot the signs of illegal money lending.
Residents will be offered free benefit checks at the sessions to ensure they are receiving the money they are entitled to.
The training events form part of a wider financial inclusion project that Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council are delivering over the course of the coming months. The IMLT are commissioning the project using £1,500 of proceeds of crime money; cash that’s been confiscated from convicted loan sharks through the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002).
The aim of the project is to find financial inclusion champions in the community who will help spread the message about loan sharks and support struggling residents to access debt advice and safe credit.
The Illegal Money Lending training sessions will take place at the following locations:
Tuesday 7 November
Galley Centre, Whitehall Avenue, Kidsgrove
10am – 11.30am – Illegal money lending training for residents and agencies
11.45am – 1.45pm – Financial capability training for residents and agencies
Wednesday 8 November
Tesco Superstore, Liverpool Road, Kidsgrove, ST7 1DX
3pm – 5pm – Loan shark information stand and speaking to Tesco shoppers
5pm – 6.30pm – Illegal money lending training session for residents and agencies
Councillor Kyle Robinson, Butt Lane Councillor and Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing, said:
“I am so pleased that Newcastle Borough Council has been able to secure external funding for these awareness raising and training sessions in the Kidsgrove community. Loan sharks and illegal money lending practices exist in most communities and so the local council is working hard to make sure we do all we can to stamp it out. I welcome positive partnership working with the Illegal Money Lending Team England and other local organisations to ensure our local residents are protected from criminals preying on vulnerable people.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Loan sharks are unscrupulous criminals who prey on the most vulnerable in our society. We are pleased to be working with our partners to raise awareness of illegal money lending and the help and support that’s available to victims of this crime.
“If you or someone you know has borrowed from a loan shark, we urge you to get in touch on 0300 555 2222. We will take information anonymously and in confidence. For more information on how our team can help you, visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Butt Lane Post Office on Congleton Road is set to be updated to offer a new modern service that is convenient for it’s customers. As part of this programme of investment and modernisation some services will change, but the Post Office will be open for longer hours. If the changes go ahead the Butt Lane branch will be open Mon-Wed 9:00 – 18:30, Thu 09:00 – 17:30, Fri 09:00 – 18:30 & Sat 09:00 – 13:00 (Current opening times are : Mon – Fri 09:00 – 17:30 & Sat 09:00 – 12:30).
Customers will still have most of the products and services they’re used to, but some some services will no longer be available at this branch. Some Insurance services will no longer be available in branch due to Insurance becoming more widely available over the phone or online. Payment by cheque will also go now that the banks have agreed not to issue cheque guarantee cards. The Butt Lane branch may close for up to seven days during August/September 2015 while a refurbishment of the building takes place.
Cllr Kyle Robinson said: “I welcome the news that our local Post Office will get a complete overhaul to make it more accessible to local people. The Post Office is very well used in Butt Lane as the Pharmacy also helps to increase it’s footfall. I think it’s great that these businesses work alongside each other to offer an exceptional service in our community. The only concerns I have raised with Post Office Limited is the ending of payments by cheque. There is still a generation that prefer to pay by cheque and I have raised this with the area manager. Unfortunately, the banks have stopped issuing cheque guarantee cards so this makes it difficult for companies to accept a payment by cheque for fear of it bouncing should there be insufficient funds in a customers account.”
Councillors have voted to urge Staffordshire Fire Authority to change possible plans to close Kidsgrove Fire Station. Kidsgrove Fire Station was opened in September 2011, costing the taxpayer £2.2 Million. The people of Kidsgrove were led to believe that the station would serve the locality for at least 60 years.
The Fire Stations across the region were built with a £50 Million Private Finance Initiative. This could mean that even if the stations close, the taxpayer will still be paying for them for over 20 years. Selling the buildings on will not recoup the build cost.
Back in July 2012, Chief Fire Officer, Peter Dartford told the evening Sentinel: “The extent to which the fire station has been used already is a clear demonstration of how important it is to the community. The facility provides a range of new opportunities for us and the partners we work with to engage more with the local community, better understand their needs and work with them to resolve their issues.”
One of the options contained within the consultation include reducing the normal fire engine size to a smaller vehicle. The smaller vehicles are the size of a transit van. Fire officers have expressed their own personal concerns to me and other colleagues, that these smaller vehicles contain a quarter of the water needed to fight a fire similarly seen recently on Congleton Road at The Fisherman’s catch takeaway. This saw a terraced commercial property gutted by fire and it took almost 25 minutes for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to respond from Burslem Fire Station. It was suggested the Kidsgrove Station was unmanned on this day. It is felt by many that a minute added to response times will cost lives. Large loss of government income, is leading to a reduced level of prevention, protection and response and the impact will be major which includes loss of life or long term hospitalisation of innocent members of the public.
We only have to look over our borders to see what fire station closures can lead to. In South Wales, Fire and Rescue Service cuts have led to a situation of Fire crews not being able to assist with rope rescues or floods. Whilst in Dorset, a funding crisis and cutbacks of services has led to fire fighters working in their own time and response times dangerously increasing. These examples mirror what is to come to Staffordshire if people don’t stand against this and protect Kidsgrove’s emergency response capabilities.
The Town Council will inform Peter Dartford of the Council’s intention to fight the proposals. The closure of this facility should never have been an option in the consultation. Carving up Kidsgrove and sharing our Fire and Rescue Service with Cheshire and Alsager is ill thought out and the Town Council sees the detrimental impact this will have on response times. We firmly believe that the Kidsgrove Fire Station and the emergency response capabilities of the facility should remain at the same level. Although the council would be willing to look at the option of helping to set up a management committee to help run the community side of the station, reducing the burden on fire service staff.
Kidsgrove Town Councillor, Sarah Pickup said: “I don’t agree with the sentiment that because the fire service staff do such an excellent job that they should have their numbers cut. The County Council/Fire Authority is elected by us, it is our fire service and we should be able to decide the future and say no to closure. Kidsgrove is expanding and we are soon to have a new transport interchange that brings with it potential tragic incidents. We need a fire station that is manned in Kidsgrove and we will not accept decisions from Stafford and London.”
Kidsgrove Deputy Mayor, Sylvia Dymond said: “The Butt Lane area is being developed so much more and the infrastructure is not there to support it. Now they suggest taking away the Fire Station. This is really not acceptable.”