Curb loan shark excesses for Christmas

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From the letters page of today’s Guardian:

As Christmas approaches and we enter 2011 we should not forget that countless vulnerable families and individuals will face immense pressures on their household budgets (Report, 14 December). In the struggle to put food on the table and presents under the tree, increasing numbers will be forced to turn to high-cost lenders. These are the pay-day Scrooges, some of whom charge in excess of 2,500% APRs for payday lending or up to £82 for every £100 borrowed for door-to-door lending. This means a short-term loan of just a couple of hundred pounds can result in serious financial trouble.

Then, in the new year, Britain's poorest borrowers will be faced with a double whammy with the VAT rise — a regressive tax that disproportionately hits the poorest hardest. This will pile even more of a burden on over-indebted households, just when many will run out of cash and are facing huge difficulties. This, coupled with stagnant incomes and massive cuts to public services — which next year will really begin to bite — will result in even greater hardship.

The government has committed in its coalition agreement to ban excessive lending rates for overdrafts, credit and store cards and is undergoing its consumer credit and personal insolvency review. We therefore call on the government to put an end to the modern-day Scrooges — who charge usury rates and who practice legal loan-sharking — by introducing a cap on the total cost of credit, imposing a new levy on consumer credit agencies to pay for debt counselling and advice services, and increasing access to more affordable sources of credit by further developing the idea of a Post Bank and giving more support to local credit unions, co-operatives and mutuals. At Christmas time we all have a moral duty to stand up for the vulnerable.

Gavin Hayes General secretary, Compass,

Stella Creasy MP

Jon Cruddas MP

Rachel Reeves MP

Damon Gibbons Chief executive, Centre for Responsible Credit

Professor Ruth Lister

Professor Richard Wilkinson

Rev Paul Nicolson Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

Ann Pettifor

Fr Paul Butler Rector of St Paul's, Deptford

John Morris Chair, Human City Institute

Niall Cooper National coordinator, Church Action on Poverty

Cat Smith Chair, Compass Youth

Cllr Sam Tarry National Chair of Young Labour

Richard Murphy

Will Straw Left Foot Forward

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