Twenty years after the organisation was set up in Rothesay, the Bute and Cowal Credit Union has officially opened its new branch office in Dunoon.
Formed in 1994 as Bute Credit Union, the organisation has had its ‘common bond’ - the definition of the community that it serves - extended to include anyone who lives or works in the Bute and Cowal area, and has been renamed as a result.
The new Cowal branch office was opened on Monday, and in view of the 20th anniversary of its Rothesay office opening, BCCU president and Bute resident Janet O’Sullivan said: “It seems very appropriate that all the hard work and dedication of the local members and volunteers and the folk of Cowal have paid off at this time.”
The Cowal branch is based in the offices of Argyll Voluntary Action (AVA) in Dunoon’s Edward Street and, like the Bute office, at 5 King Street in Rothesay, is open for business every Tuesday from 10.30am to 1pm. It will eventually mirror the Bute office and be open on Saturday mornings too.
The financial regulations on setting up a credit union mean it is very difficult to start one from scratch, and even extending a credit union and opening a new branch is a complicated process.
Janet observed: “Whilst the Bute Credit Union is a very strong organisation and much respected in the credit union world for the way it is run, it does seem to be a well kept secret on the island.
“This is fairly typical of UK membership, whereas in places like Canada, New Zealand, Eire, France etc membership is often around 30 per cent of the population. Hopefully BCCU will become widely known as it expands.”
A credit union is a mutual organisation of people linked by a ‘common bond’ – a union, a company, a neighbourhood or, in this case, a geographical area.
All people in the common bond can deposit savings in the credit union, and after a short period, can then apply to receive a loan from the credit union. Loans are paid from the capital deposited in the credit union, so the scheme effectively allows people to borrow money from their fellow members.
The loan is repaid at a very competitive interest rate compared to many lenders and credit cards (currently just over 12 per cent per year), and the interest is paid back into the credit union funds, ready to allow more loans to be made.
There are no shareholders to take profits, and loans can be made to people who could not access high street banks or internet based lenders.
“The BCCU does not currently pay dividends on savings,” Janet continued.
“Credit unions are not intended to give money away: they encourage people to learn to save and to be prudent with their finances. They are an excellent example of how a community can work together to help people manage their lives and finances in a better way.”
The BCCU is part of the Scottish League of Credit Unions (SLCU)
The Credit Union can be contacted on 01700 502000, or just pop to 5 King Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.