York's new People's Assembly, including a concerned local priest, have been protesting outside two local payday loan company offices this weekend.
Armed with monopoly-style 'free' cash, they have been targeting Cheque Centre and the Money Shop, both on Ousegate, over what critics see as the industry's profiteering from misery.
Citizens Advice Bureaux have found that thousands of their clients have been ripped off by legal pay day loan companies typically charging 5000 per cent interest pa.
George Vickers, York Citizen's Advice Bureau manager, told the assembly “We're seeing a growing number of people in trouble. These companies claim that they only lend to people they have checked can pay back the loan, but we are increasingly finding that the debts are being rolled over. A loan of £100 can end up costing people, who are struggling to feed their families, two or three times that amount in a matter of weeks.”
“The companies claimed to have self regulation, but it is not working – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has to take charge. We want to see a limit on the number of times a loan can be rolled over, checks on whether people can afford the loans and a legal duty to let people know what other help is out there.”
Tang Hall Anglican priest Fr Tim Jones recently shared his experiences in a column for the Yorkshire Post, and joined the protest.
He declared: “The reality is that desperate people use payday lenders. In my work, I find myself having to help and comfort those whose lives are being wrecked. I see companies pestering former clients by text to take out new loans, promising loans to go in 15 minutes. A friend told me, if you're struggling, it can be just too hard to resist”.
Fr Jones is priest-in-charge of St Lawrence's and St Hilda's Church.
A recent study of cases brought to Citizen's Advice showed lending to under 18s, the mentally ill and those who were drunk at the time.
Draining of bank accounts using controversial 'Continuous Payment Authorities' was rife, resulting in spiralling debt to cover living expenses. The industry was found to be systematically breaking 12 out of 14 guidelines agreed with the government. This included failing to require documentary proof of identity or ability to pay back the loan, as well as putting pressure on borrowers in difficulty to extend their loan.
York People's Assembly is a local initiative based on The People's Assembly, which launched on 22 June 2013 with a major conference attended by 4000 people in Westminster Central Hall.
It aims to challenge the longest and deepest drop in living standards since Victorian times and the government policies and corporate interests which are driving them.
* The People's Assembly: http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk