It used to be Tynedale Community Bank, but as I discovered, as Christina at Fawside was busily proofreading the latest iteration of the Allendale and Allen Valleys Pocket Directory, it’s now joined forces with the Credit Union for South-East Northumberland to become the Northumberland Community Bank, a county-wide organisation with branch offices in each locality. For us, within the renamed Tynedale district, the office is in Hexham at the Queen’s Hall on Beaumont Street.
But what does this ‘community bank’ actually do? The website says it works to facilitate fair and convenient saving and borrowing by its members. It tries to encourage its members to save and borrow responsibly, without recourse to high-interest or payday lenders. Moreover, savings are protected by an insurance scheme that will double any member’s savings in the bank, and also cancel any member’s outstanding loan with the bank, in the event of their death.
The community bank participates in a Payroll Deduction Scheme, where money (as negotiated during a period of calm lucidity, before a member might be seduced by all their payday largesse, as I often was, to spend wildly) can be drawn into savings. The community bank also runs Junior Savers Accounts, and welcomes enquiries (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The community bank “is a ‘not for profit’ enterprise, which means any surplus made by the Bank will be ploughed back into our local communities.” Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? So how does one join, or become a member?
Simples, as the meerkats love to say: the bank’s website lists 5 different ways to join: online; through the Payroll Partners Scheme; by telephone; by email; at local community information points (like the Queen’s Hall). With any application procedure, ID verification documents must be presented, as outlined.
I seem to recall the Bishop of York, John Sentamu, expressing his profound support for such a community bank, but I can’t find such sentiments on his WikiPedia page, though he comes quite naturally to caring about poverty, of course. Ah yes, found it now: the bishop did visit Hexham for the opening in 2015 of Tynedale Community Bank. It’s nice to see that that venture has grown into a county-wide bank, since there’s such strength in numbers.
How, I wondered, might one go about withdrawing money from one’s savings account (it’s easy to pay in cash, for example, or by cheque or debit card at the Community Information Centres). And the bank’s website provides ample instructions on how to make an application for a loan. But how do you get your own savings cash out of the system? That information is apparently not available from the community bank’s website, so an enquiry to the main office at Ashington (Tel: 01670 522779) should elicit appropriate instructions, which doubtless one would also receive with membership.
If such a community service can prevent families from falling into hock to unscrupulous lenders, and potentially tearing themselves apart with iniquitous interest rates (you can apply for a loan with the community bank before you’re a member, though membership costing £1 is all part of the process of a loan application), then that would certainly be a great benefit to everyone, wouldn’t it!