Councillors call for Wonga ban
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Finance
Labour councillors have called for Westminster City Council to block access to payday loan company websites from any computer under the authority's control.
Labour has claimed that payday lenders such as Wonga are taking unfair advantage of many local residents who find themselves in difficult financial circumstances because of the continued economic recession.
The councillors are now demanding that Westminster follows the example of Plymouth Council which has blocked access to such sites on all its computers, including those in libraries and community centres.
Payday loan companies - which have been described by MP Stella Creasy as "legal loan sharks" - charge annual interest rates of up to 5,853%.
Westminster's Labour Group says the council should be encouraging credit unions and local affordable lending as genuine alternatives to payday lenders, claiming that the local London Mutual Credit Union offers a much cheaper service which residents should be encouraged to use if they need an affordable short-term loan.
Labour Group leader cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “Nothing sums up the scale of the Conservatives’ economic failure more than the growth of payday lenders along every High Street, including in Westminster, where those most vulnerable are being charged eye-watering interest rates of over 5,000%.
"This is a national disgrace and the council should take a lead by stopping access to payday lender websites from council computers in offices, libraries and elsewhere.”
Cllr Steve Summers, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for the community, said: “Our libraries and community centres are a source of information for residents and those vulnerable people who fall on tough financial times.
“But rather than deterring residents from using their local branch by blanket banning some sites and seeing them head to internet cafes and access these websites in other ways, we would much rather they come to us, drop into their local library, community centre or one stop express, and speak to staff who will guide them to our advice services where they will be presented with a range of different options.
“We have a great track record in providing advice to vulnerable residents and the council is about to enter into a multi-million pound contract with the Citizens Advice Bureau to provide advice services, which will include help for those in debt.”