49th Annual General Meeting Chairman’s Address

I am very pleased to present to you, the Members of Lurgan Credit Union Ltd., this our 49th Annual Address.

Unfortunately the financial landscape that we have spoken of since 2008 has not changed, thus causing much hardship among our Members, with no sign of any improvement. It would seem that the hardship now being experienced is set to last and indications are that it may get worse for some of us, if that is possible. Despite the hardships however, Lurgan Credit Union stays strong, our year-end results show an improvement on last year’s trading, which will become evident as you listen to the reports of my fellow Directors in their different roles of responsibility.

It was at such times as this when banks were refusing to lend money and money lenders were lending money at exorbitant interest rates back in the 1950’s and 1960’s that Credit Unions were born to help create an atmosphere wherein people could save and borrow regardless of class or creed.

Today, Lurgan Credit Union still holds onto those principles, therefore it is disappointing that a survey carried out by the Irish League of Credit Unions, shows that 65% of consumers worried that 2012 was more difficult than 2011, 44% had less disposable income than 12 months previous, while 150,000 people are turning to money lenders and Pay Day Loans to meet their bills.

This confirms that money lenders continue to have a hold on many people in our community. The Household Income Tracker shows that 14% of those who take out a typical loan of £300 from a money lender have to pay an average of 95% interest, giving a total payback sum of £586. This figure stands in stark contrast to the affordable loans available to you, our Members, which are up to 15 times cheaper than those from money lenders.

Pay Day Loan companies are currently quoting loans of £400 over 31 days at a cost of £129, while the same loan from Lurgan Credit Union would cost £2.30. We the Directors, therefore, would encourage you the Members, to speak to your Credit Union first. Unlike other lenders we are not for profit, but a community owned organisation and we exist solely to meet the needs of our Members.

A few years back we opened an Easy Shares Account to add extra help for our Members. This account does what it says, it gives easy access and you can save into it on a regular basis for say, oil, coal, telephone or electricity, for example. It could also be used as a Christmas Club where you put regular amounts in during the year for the expensive festive period. The money saved in this account will accrue dividend just as your main account does.

We know that many good and loyal Members have got into arrears during this financial crisis. We would hope of course that these Members will get back to full membership again by settling their arrears. In the meantime all are eligible to use the Easy Shares Account, so if you are in arrears, please contact Management or Staff to find out how you can operate this account.

I spoke last year of the impending change to the regulation of the Credit Union movement and can report that the Regulation of Credit Unions in Northern Ireland was transferred to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) ON 31st March 2012. However, responsibility for Credit Union Legislation in Northern Ireland remains with the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Minister announced the intention to publish new Credit Union legislation in order to provide greater opportunity to fulfil and expand the role of credit unions in the community. In particular, the new legislation will introduce the concept of corporate membership in credit unions. Membership in Credit Unions in Northern Ireland is currently confined to individuals and it is proposed that the new legislation will permit membership by various community groups. We have sought this change for some time, so hopefully it will come to fruition.

As I said at the beginning, Lurgan Credit Union traded better in 2012 than 2011 and we hope that with the help of you the Members, we will be even stronger in 2013, which is of course our 50th Anniversary Year. To mark this important milestone, we hope to stage some events throughout the year and will keep you the Members updated through our Notice Board in the Office.

We look forward to a prosperous 50th Year and hope that Lurgan Credit Union will continue to serve our Members well in the next 50 years. Meantime we think fondly of the local people who had the foresight and the courage to start up such a wonderful institution which has served the local community so well, bringing hope and wealth to so many people.

I hope that in 2013 you will remember Volunteers, Staff and Members who have contributed so much, but who may no longer be with us.

In conclusion, may I ask the Members to support your Credit Union and if you are considering a long-term or short-term loan, talk first to Lurgan Credit Union, not the money lenders who are exploiting people in their time of need. If because of the recession, you have fallen into arrears because of benefit change, unemployment or for whatever reason, please come and speak to us, you will always have a sympathetic ear.

May I also take this opportunity to thank my fellow Directors, Supervisory Committee, Management and Staff for their support over the last year. Their advice and guidance has been invaluable and greatly appreciated by me.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.