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York protest over payday lenders
PAYDAY loan firms and the misery caused by borrowing money at rocketing interest rates have been put into the spotlight by York protesters.
Campaigners gathered at Ousegate and Spurriergate junction close to two city-centre payday lenders, Cheque Centre and The Money Shop.
The protest was organised by York’s People’s Assembly, set up to challenge declines in living standards and political and corporate factors behind them.
York Citizens Advice Bureau manager George Vickers said: “We’re seeing a growing number of people in trouble.
“These companies claim they only lend to people they’ve checked can pay back the loan, but we’re increasingly finding debts are being rolled over and a £100 loan can end up costing people struggling to feed their families two or three times that amount in a matter of weeks.
“The companies claim to have self-regulation, but it’s not working and the Financial Conduct Authority 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 them and a legal duty to let people know what other help is out there.”
Father Tim Jones, parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York, said: “I find myself helping and comforting those whose lives are being wrecked, and I see companies pestering former clients by text to take out new loans, promising loans to go in 15 minutes – a friend told me that if you’re struggling, it can be just too hard to resist.”
Assembly spokesman Graham Martin said campaigners were approached by people whose relatives were struggling to repay high-interest loans, saying: “They are trapped in a spiral of debt, feeling they have nowhere to turn.”
People with money worries or debt repayment problems are advised to approach South Yorkshire Credit Union, which covers York, or the Citizens Advice Bureau, while City of York Council has blocked payday loan websites from its staff and public wi-fi and computers.
A national spokeswoman for The Money Shop said the firm would not comment on the protest, while Cheque Centre did not respond when asked to comment.
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