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Movie star in Edinburgh

Actor Sheen calls for ‘fairer deals’ from lenders

Michael Sheen at Castle Community BankMichael Sheen: devoting time to other causes (photos by Terry Murden)


 

Actor Michael Sheen added his support for “fairer” lending practices as he opened a new branch of a community bank.

The actor, who has played Tony Blair, Brian Clough and David Frost in big screen movies, said in March he planned to devote more time to the causes he supports.

He arrived in Leith to officially open Castle Community Bank’s premises in Great Junction Street as part of his support social campaigning work.

 

Sheen was in Scotland a few weeks ago to launch the End High-Cost Credit Alliance, which he founded as part of his work against high-cost lenders – particularly the so-called “pay-day loans” companies.

Speaking at today’s launch, he said: “We all have a role to play in promoting fair and responsible credit.

“We know the high cost lenders have huge budgets, extensive technology at their fingertips and the public awareness. 

“Despite their high costs and often irresponsible lending behaviour they are still delivering to millions of people across the UK. 

“The battle to make credit unions as effective as possible in taking on the high cost lenders can be a challenging one but Castle Community Bank shows us many of the characteristics I think are needed to take an innovative, bold approach to those challenges.

“Communities all across the UK deserve a fairer, more responsible deal. The sort of deal that credit unions can offer. To help those communities thrive, not just survive.”

Castle Community Bank is a not-for-profit credit union and its directors are all volunteers. It was founded by its Chair, Reverend Iain May,  a former banker with RBS and Allied Irish Banks who became a Church of Scotland Minister.

He said: “We’re incredibly grateful that both Michael and Angela freed up time to open our branch – and it really means a lot to have their support alongside our backers and clients in the city. 

“Since Castle Community Bank was created in 2015  we are proud that we’ve helped more than 1500 people get access to fair and affordable credit.

“Sometimes people mistakenly believe that credit unions are only there for emergencies or for people who are on benefits – but nothing could be further from the truth.

“In fact, every day we provide loans to ordinary people and families across Edinburgh and Lothians enabling them to do the things they want in life – create or improve their family homes, buy a car or to help prepare for and manage life events, like having a baby or planning their wedding.

“We are constantly working to raise our profile and get that message out to more and more people, who may otherwise find themselves falling into a cycle of problem debt by taking out hire purchase agreements or pay day loans at punitive rates of interest which they can’t really afford. 

“It’s our very real hope that having Michael cutting the ribbon on our new branch will get our name in front of an awful lot more people who may be interested in finding out more about us and maybe using our services.” 

Gordon Buchanan, general manager of the Bank, said Sheen’s involvement could help change the image and understanding of credit unions.

“People mistakenly believe that credit unions are only there for emergencies or for people who are on benefits – but nothing could be further from the truth.

“In fact, every day we provide loans to ordinary people and families across Edinburgh and Lothians enabling them to do the things they want in life.

“It’s our very real hope that having Michael cutting the ribbon on our new branch will get our name in front of an awful lot more people who may be interested in finding out more about us and maybe using our services.”

Angela Constance, Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, who attended the launch, said: “It is a pleasure to be able to open the bank alongside Michael.

“Everyone should have access to the financial products they need to help them get on in life, without feeling that they have no choice but to turn to organisations such as payday lenders, which often charge extortionate interest rates, leaving people trapped in a cycle of debt. 

“Community lenders such as the Castle Community Bank are vital to helping more people access the support they need.

“The Scottish Government wants to tackle the poverty premium so many on low incomes families  face which is why we recently announced £1 million for the Carnegie Affordable Credit Loan Fund to help low income families have greater access to affordable credit.”



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