Cash extorted by convicted loan sharks is to be ploughed back into the Crawley community through three local projects.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which investigates and prosecutes loan sharks, has launched the ‘Your Choice’ initiative in the town in partnership with West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council following success in other areas.
West Sussex Credit Union and Crawley Foyer (Part of West Sussex YMCA) placed bids for loan sharks’ cash to help fund projects which will raise awareness of this crime and encourage victims to come forward.
Crawley Foyer will receive £700 to raise awareness with its service users and professional contacts. Training will take place for staff, a display will be made at the foyer and a bicycle maintenance course, including budgeting and finance skills will be offered to people living at the hostel.
West Sussex Credit Union will receive £700 to promote ‘Save as You Earn’ to businesses in the Manor Royal Business District. This will encourage employees to save through their pay and if they save for three consecutive months, will receive a bonus of £20 from the Illegal Money Lending Team.
They will also receive a further £700 for a second project ‘Vote turkeys for Christmas’. This project also encourages people to save and will be promoted to Crawley residents through partners at the Town Hall. Again, the Illegal Money Lending Team will reward new savers, who can make three payments, with an extra £20 ready for Christmas.
The public will also vote for which of the three projects will receive an additional £300. Vote online via this link before 1pm on Wednesday October 9 or in person at Crawley Borough Council Town Hall on Wednesday October 9 between 10am and 1pm.
Representatives from the team will be on hand to speak to people during the day, warning them of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
Cllr Howard Bloom, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “The Your Choice initiative will put money recovered from illegal money lenders back into the community and help fund three local projects. These aim to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks as well as help people find safer and fairer alternatives to this kind of borrowing.
“The Your Choice event at the Town Hall is an excellent opportunity to get informed, seek advice and show support for the groups tackling the issue.”
Cllr Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for residents’ services, which includes Trading Standards, said: “This is an excellent scheme, and I hope the voting event will be a great success. I look forward to seeing the benefits to Crawley from cash confiscated from loan sharks.
“Once again the county council would remind people with financial problems to contact the West Sussex Credit Union for advice and help.”
Contact details are available on the website http://www.westsussexcreditunion.co.uk/
The England Illegal Money Lending Team have so far prosecuted 266 illegal money lenders across the country. Many of these criminals have extorted cash from communities, leaving their victims with little or nothing to get by on and often living in fear.
Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team Tony Quigley said “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities, making life a misery for their victims. Through schemes such as ‘Your Choice’ we are able to use this money for something positive and help to prevent these criminals from operating in the future.
“We would welcome anyone to vote online or in person to have their say in how this money can be put to good use. We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222.”
To report a loan shark people can also text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, email firstname.lastname@example.org pr private message the project on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject