Maidstone backs charter to stop loan sharks

Maidstone partners have signed the Stop Loan Sharks charter

Agencies across Maidstone are teaming up to help protect vulnerable residents, with a new zero tolerance pledge towards loan sharks.

Supported by Maidstone Borough Council and the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), a charter was signed by the Mayor of Maidstone, Cllr Marion Ring, Leader of Maidstone Borough Council, Martin Cox and representatives from Golding Homes, Kent Savers Credit Union and One Maidstone BID at Maidstone Town Hall on Monday, 20 January.

Under the agreement, partner organisations in the borough will work to increase the confidence of residents to enable them to report illegal money lending activity. They will also provide advice on budgeting to help residents make more informed choices.

National mascot “Sid the Shark” was in Jubilee Square for a roadshow event raising awareness of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks. Residents were able to access practical advice, support and information on ways to manage their money and avoid falling prey to predatory lenders and other unscrupulous practices.

Steve Noble, Community Protection Officer at Maidstone Borough Council said: “The event was a great success and we spoke to many people about the risks of using illegal money lenders. Just as important though, was the opportunity to highlight the many legal alternatives such as Kent Savers Credit Union and debt counselling, which are available to those who need a loan or information and support on how to manage debt.”

More than 310,000 households across the country are estimated to borrow from illegal money lenders, who charge exorbitant rates of interest, force people into a spiral of debt and often resort to violence or intimidation to force repayments.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are committed to working closely with our partners, including local authorities, credit unions and housing associations, in order to crack down on illegal money lending and support those who have borrowed from a loan shark.

“Loan sharks can initially appear friendly, but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. We would encourage any resident with information on illegal money lending activity to report it as soon as possible.”

All money lenders require proper permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money and those who do not are acting illegally.

Kent Savers Credit Union provides a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks and gives residents access to affordable loans and secure savings. For more information call 0333 321 9050 or visit the website.

If you have been affected by a loan shark, call 0300 555 2222 in confidence or complete an online form here.