Credit Unions

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 17th February 2014.

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Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 17th February 2014

7. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, without being too repetitive given Mr Dallat’s question, whether she will work closely with local credit unions to expand on the range of services that they are able to deliver, given the increasing number of bank closures in rural areas, including Dromore, Fintona and Beragh in my constituency. (AQT 737/11-15)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Part of the credit union reform is looking at the range of powers that credit unions will have.  I hear what the Member said about bank closures.  It is concerning for those of us who live rurally and have to deal with these issues.  As well as that, we can access banking services through the Post OfficeThe Post Office is very keen that we do that.  I have had some discussions with it about the fact that it can take deposits from most of the major banks and deal with other issues in that regard as well.  We will look at credit unions, post offices and anything else that can help in the circumstances for rural dwellers.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

Does the Minister have any thinking on the type of additional services that might be delivered through credit unions in the future?  Does her Department have a regular liaison arrangement with credit union leaders to discuss issues of common concern?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Of course, it was not that long ago that we not only registered but regulated credit unions.  We had a very close relationship with the credit unions.  We no longer regulate the credit unions; as you will recall, that is now carried out by Westminster.  We just register the credit unions, but we still have a very good working relationship because of the historical working relationship with the credit unions, including the Ulster federation and the Irish federation.

As for extra powers, I think that we looked at them being able to deal with some benefits that come forward from government.  I am quite happy to clarify that to the Member in writing.  There are certainly particular powers that we are looking at bringing to the credit unions.