Tuesday, 4 August 2015

31 July 2015

In praise of Hull and East Yorkshire
There's lots of reasons why I consider myself fortunate to live and work in our fine city of Kingston upon Hull and beautiful East Yorkshire, but two in particular come to mind as I write this piece:

Firstly, our wonderful Hull Trains service!  This week I was "up with the lark" to travel to London for a training event on workplace planning, to help us prepare for our Credit Union Transformation Programme.  On hearing that I had come down from Hull, a fellow delegate said, "That would be a long and difficult journey for you, I bet you had to change trains a few times".  I replied, "Not at all, we have our own train service, First Hull Trains, that runs direct into Kings Cross seven times a day and the customer service is fantastic!"  Both my journeys were on time, and without a hitch as far as I could tell.  In fact, the service is so good that they've come top for satisfaction out of all the country's train operators in the independent National Passenger Survey, with a score of 96%.  And now they've been shortlisted for Rail Operator of the Year.  Good luck to those very nice people from Hull Trains!

My second reason is that East Yorkshire is home to the Driffield Show.  On 22 July I joined the crowds descending on the market town of Driffield (Capital of the Wolds) to enjoy the Driffield Agricultural Society's 140th annual show.  With a terrific variety of exhibits ranging from cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs to food, flowers, handicrafts and trade stands, the Show seemed bigger and better than ever, fully justifying its growing reputation as the largest one day show in the country.  I was interested but not surprised to read in the programme that planning it takes a full year and, on show day, over 100 volunteers are on site helping everything to run smoothly.  It's a great day out for all the family, so let's hope its fine tradition carries on long into the future.

And now to Northern Lincolnshire, an area I am less familiar with personally, but one I am coming to know, now that our Credit Union extends its reach across the Humber.  On Monday, I was in Scunthorpe, starting with a briefing for the team at Crosby Employment Bureau (part of ongo), all about our new Business Start-up Loans facility.  Their advisors meet people who have plans to go self-employed or freelance, but who don't always find it easy to obtain a small bank loan to finance their start up needs, whether it's for equipment to start a hairdressing business, workshop tools, or shop fittings to open a cafe.  Now they can refer clients to our web page where the application process is all explained, together with sample documents such as a business plan and cash flow projection.

Later on, I nipped over to Winterton with Kate Pike (Credit Union Director) and David Martin (our North Lincs Business Development Officer), for a little ceremony to mark the launch of our partnership with Winterton 2022, the local residents group that's secured Big Lottery funding to regenerate the town.  The venue was the historic All Saints Church and, even as we arrived, the place was teeming with craftspeople, beavering away to recreate the ancient bell-ringing chamber.  The whole church is undergoing a full restoration and, while far from complete, it is shaping up very impressively and well worth a look.

Ongo Carnival
We'll be having a stall at this year's Ongo Carnival, which takes place on 12 August at Manor Park, Burringham Road, Scunthorpe, from 11 am to 3 pm.  With over 500 people expected at the park, the free event is set to be a day to remember with activities including a circus workshop, trampolines, zorb footballing and demonstrations of majorettes and martial arts.  For the youngsters there'll be a small animal farm, soft play area, bouncy castle and fun house.  Information stands and stalls from housing staff, the Police, Fire Service and Alzheimer's Society, plus of course our Credit Union, will be on hand too, and naturally there will be some tasty food options for visitors to enjoy.

Community Notice Boards
Walking around my home area this week, I was pleased to see some familiar posters in the Community Notice Board frames - advertising our not-for-profit Credit Union.  Thank you, Hull City Council, for making this facility available, to help us spread awareness among the residents of the City's Avenue, Bricknell and Newland Wards.

If you have a notice board in your community that could benefit from a colourful A5 size Credit Union poster, please let us know - we can get some posters out to you, with the relevant branch address in the footer so that people know where to find us.

Employee to Volunteer, via Retirement!
I'd like to welcome back our good friend, Richard, as a Credit Union Volunteer.  Richard worked for me for nine years before taking retirement earlier this year, but it seems his enthusiasm for the Credit Union movement just won't go away.  So, he's now volunteered to help us support our volunteer-run branches such as Driffield and Withernsea, an offer warmly welcomed by those colleagues, who enjoyed his training sessions and support before.

Credit Unions around the world
I've been reading a special edition of Co-operative News, devoted to credit union activities.  Did you know that the World Council of Credit Unions estimates that over 200 million people worldwide are now credit union members, with around 57,000 separate credit unions (like Hull & East Yorkshire) operating in 103 countries?  The United States is the jewel in the crown, with almost half the total members.  As in Canada, which also has a strong movement, more than 40% of the population are members.  Australia has a large credit union sector, with 4.5 million members, while in Africa credit unions (known more accurately there as SACCOs - Savings and Credit Co-operatives) play a key role in  countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

However, I hadn't realised that there are large regions with strong co-operative traditions, still untouched by the credit union system, because history took them down a different route.  So, in Europe, only the UK, Ireland, Poland and some Eastern countries have credit union networks.  In Germany, France and Spain, the role of credit unions has traditionally been performed by savings banks, or co-operative banks such as Credit Agricole and Credit Mutuel instead.   In the UK less than 2% of the adult population are credit union members, but then we are catching up fast!

Holiday Time
During August some of our branches will have slightly different opening times, or close on certain days, due to unavoidable cover shortage, so do watch our website News page for full details.  Notices will be posted on the branch windows and staff will aim to tell regular visitors well in advance.

At this time of year, many of us face extra expenditure due to holidays or the need to buy school uniforms or equipment.  Could we help with a small loan?   Have a look at the Loan Calculator on the Loans page of our website or pop in to see us.

If you have yet to go on your summer holidays, we hope you have a great time!