Would You Credit It?

Posted by editor on December 17, 2009 under Business, training and employment, Community

The East Manchester Credit Union had humble beginnings, originally run by volunteers serving a small community. Len Grant talks to its first paid worker, Christine Moore, and discovers how it has grown to serve 5,000 members across the city with a staff of 20.

Christine: "There's constant juggling, but I get a great deal of satisfaction from this job."

Christine: "There's constant juggling, but I get a great deal of satisfaction from this job."

Len: Tell me something about the early days.

Christine: It began in 1991 as the Beswick and Openshaw Credit Union. Friends and family would join together in a share-based saving scheme which meant you could take out a loan only if you had built up savings. The scheme was run by volunteers and only open for say, an hour a week, at the church hall.

By 2000, when I became the first paid staff member, there were less than 100 members, most of whom knew each other, and only a few thousand pounds on loan.

Len: It seemed like a good idea, so why so few members?

Christine: Yes, it was a good idea and our chair, Tim Presswood, recognised that credit unions needed to be more professional if they were to attract new members. He won funding which paid for my position and allowed us to open a shop on Beswick Precinct where we had a higher profile. The name changed then to the East Manchester Credit Union. You have to remember at that time, 79% of residents were on some kind of benefit, doorstep lending was rife, and there were no banks or even ATMs.

Len: So raising the profile must have helped?

Christine: Yes, it did. But our initial growth was also helped by the Eastserve computer project. New Deal for Communities had 4,000 subsidised computers on offer at £200 each. They guaranteed a loan scheme where we could provide instant loans to residents so they could buy one of the computers and get online. Before then, our members could only take out a loan if they had saved first. It was expected that only a quarter of the residents would need finance, but in reality 75% needed to borrow the £200. That was quite a steep learning curve for us.

Len: And now, do you still insist members save before they can borrow?

Christine: It’s changed completely now. We do offer immediate loans because we’re ‘competing’ against doorstep moneylenders. But we encourage new members to save and manage their money more efficiently. People find it empowering to have savings and sometimes it’s for the very first time. The advantage with the Credit Union is that there is just one loan and one – smaller – repayment rather than dozens of different ones. Managing your cash is more difficult on benefits: there’s no scope to increase your income by earning a bit more here and there.

Len: So if the Credit Union a soft touch?

Christine: When people get into problems, and providing they tell us what’s going on, then we are likely to be more sympathetic than other lenders but no, we’re not a soft touch. We have to distinguish between the ‘can’t pays’ and the ‘won’t pays’ and we follow strict credit control procedures for those who won’t repay what they’ve borrowed.

Len: And now?

Christine: We still have a branch in Beswick, but we’ve taken over smaller unions around the city who were at risk of folding and we are now the Manchester Credit Union. Our principles are still the same, but we now have more opportunities to help those on low incomes mange their finances.

Manchester Credit Union

Gorton 100 Finalé

Posted by editor on December 7, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

It’s been 100 years since Gorton became part of the City of Manchester and the centenary has been marked by dozens of events over the past twelve months.

Last night the celebrations culminated in a Festive Finalé at Gorton Monastery with music, stalls, speeches and refreshments for all. At dusk, children and adults alike lit a lantern and paraded to Gorton Park for a fire display and fireworks.

Don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer.

Music : Cedar Mount High School; Gorton Voice Choir; Bloco Novo
Lantern Procession: Artistic team led by Fiona Smith and Tess Hills
Fire Performers: Circus Diaspora
Fire Garden Installation: Walk the Plank

Principal’s Blog: November 09

Posted by editor on under Education and health

Principal Designate, Guy Hutchence continues his monthly round-up of preparations for the new East Manchester Academy. This month he has news of an event for prospective sixth-formers.

The Academy 'blocks' are linked with impressive footbridges

The Academy 'blocks' are linked with impressive footbridges

It’s the end of November and it seems no time at all since I wrote the October blog! It’s been another busy month where I have been attending more design meetings on site and recruiting new Academy staff.

I am delighted to report we have appointed some excellent staff so far for English, maths, science and modern foreign languages. We’ve also recruited a second Vice Principal – Jane Clewlow – who will be heading the Teaching and Learning Team and will join us next May. She’ll also be assisting with appointing other key staff members in the Spring.

The glass atrium is now complete

The glass atrium is now complete

As these pictures show, the school itself is cracking on apace. The glass atrium facing Grey Mare Lane is now complete which means the contractors can continue with the library and Academy interiors.

We have also been making further plans for the Career Sixth Form which will see over-16 students utilising the top floor of the Academy from September next year. Only a limited number of students will join us each year which will mean we can personalise a learning programme to suit each student.

The new Beswick Library will be here

The new Beswick Library will be here

We are holding a special event at Cube gallery on Thursday, 10th December (5.00-7.30pm) where we hope to meet prospective sixth form students and their parents. On the evening – which has been organised by our sponsors – representatives from local universities will be on hand to discuss the opportunities on offer.

All this as well as dropping off newsletters to primary schools across the area has kept us busy, and the next few weeks up to Christmas look hectic too. I must take this opportunity to wish every reader a very Happy Christmas and I hope 2010 is everything you wish it to be!

Bright colours in each classroom

Bright colours in each classroom

Check out our new website for all the latest information on the East Manchester Academy