New Manifesto To Transform NI's Credit Union Network

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has launched a new policy manifesto to support the Northern Ireland Assembly in bringing about essential changes and recognising the essential role of credit unions within communities and the wider economy.

The policy document titled 'The Northern Ireland Credit Union Movement: For Community – Not Profit' has three key policy asks, underscoring the need for modernisation and financial backing to strengthen and secure credit unions for the next generation.

The ILCU have three key asks from the Assembly:

• Modernise credit union legislation in Northern Ireland which is now almost 40 years old. The legal framework has been updated in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. This would allow credit unions to develop and offer financial products to meet their members' needs.

• Credit unions also need financial support for new digital platforms and services, to reflect changing consumer needs. Direct financial support has supported the transformation of credit union's digital platforms in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, this would level the playing field with larger financial institutions, strengthen cybersecurity, and contribute to wider economic growth. A specific rates scheme exemption for credit unions would also go some way in supporting credit unions like that enjoyed by post offices and rural ATMs.
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• Beyond financial matters, the ILCU sees credit unions as pivotal players in promoting sustainability within communities. The manifesto urges the Northern Ireland Assembly to provide certainty around green home improvements, advocating for a comprehensive package of incentives and regulations. The improvement of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) is highlighted as a crucial step towards achieving sustainability goals.

Speaking after the launch, Minister for the Economy, Conor Murphy MLA said: "Following today's Irish League of Credit Unions manifesto launch, I can announce that I am setting up a team to deliver the outlined policies and legislation. This important work will be prioritised by my Department and will be co-designed with the Irish League of Credit Unions, and the Ulster Federation. It will proceed at pace and be delivered within the three years remaining of the mandate."

Martin Fisher, Head of NI for the ILCU, stated: "For over 65 years, credit unions have been the cornerstone of community-driven financial services in Northern Ireland, marked by remarkable growth and success. Over a third of the population are members, surpassing commercial banks in unsecured personal loans.

"With an asset book totalling £1.87 billion, including £1.61 billion in savings and £644 million in loans, our members have saved up to £30 million in interest through nearly 50,000 loans under £1,000 in 2022 alone.

"As not-for-profit cooperatives owned by members, credit unions embody the power of community in action. Despite our success, challenges lie ahead, and we seek government support in the next mandate. This document outlines our requests to policymakers for assistance, emphasising collaboration to enhance financial well-being and contribute to future economic growth.

"We congratulate the Minister on his appointment and thank him for supporting us today. We would also like to thank MLA's for their support today and look forward to engaging with them going forward, particularly Sinead McLaughlin, Philip Brett, and Peter McReynolds who sponsored the launch."

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