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Darlington Council blocks access to payday loans websites
A NORTH-EAST council has banned access to payday loan sites on its computers in a bid to crackdown on high-interest borrowing.
Under the new measures brought in by Darlington Borough Council, more than 130 payday lender sites will no longer be accessible on all authority-owned computers, including those in public spaces, such as the Crown Street and Cockerton libraries.
The authority hopes the measures will help stop people getting caught out by the high interest rates offered by payday lenders, such as Wonga, whose annual interest rate has reached 5,853 per cent.
Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of the council, said: “Whether people like it or not, a lot of people do trust the council and if they are accessing something like this through our own computers I feel it gives them an unwarranted and unjustified degree of legitimacy.
“As a council we do not want to be associated with them. They are absolutely terrible; I do not see any need for them. I don’t see why they have to charge ridiculous rates for people who obviously can’t afford them.
“This is a bold step for us to take, but I believe it is the right one.
“Payday lenders prey on vulnerable members of society, leading to debts that they find increasingly difficult to pay off. In the current economic climate, people may occasionally need a helping hand, but there are other ways to get help, such as credit unions.”
The move follows a campaign by The Northern Echo to stamp out payday lending by offering free advertising to credit unions in an attempt to raise their profiles and encourage the public to stay away from payday lenders in times of financial need.
Within days the campaign had attracted a number of high-profile supporters, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who recently vowed to compete with payday lenders by launching a credit union backed by the Church of England.
Coun Dixon, who has been a member of Darlington Credit Union for a number of years, also urged people to use their local credit union as a responsible and safe alternative.
“People should just take out an account, even if they do not need one, with the credit union,” he said.
“As part of your civic duty just open an account with the credit union, put small amount of money in there and know that your money is actually doing some good.”
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