Monthly Archives: October 2015

Credit unions join forces to serve military personnel

The Ministry of Defence has made it possible for three of the UK’s leading credit unions to join forces and make simple savings accounts and loans available to the Armed Forces and their families.

Johnson Beharry VC joining London Mutual Credit Union

Johnson Beharry VC joining London Mutual Credit Union

The arrangement means that Armed Forces personnel will be able to save regularly or repay loans with a credit union via payroll deduction. Family members and retired personnel in receipt of a pension are also eligible to join.

The launch of this service is being marked with a celebration at the head office of the Royal British Legion in London on Thursday 15 October, which is International Credit Union Day.

A new website – – is also being launched with details of the services offered to Armed Forces personnel by the three credit unions and links to join.

Over the years, Armed Forces personnel have reported difficulties accessing credit because their job involves moving regularly and it can be challenging to build a good credit rating. For this reason, some personnel have reported being actively targeted by high cost lenders.

The appetite to facilitate regular saving and affordable borrowing for Forces personnel saw the Government exploring payroll deduction partnerships with credit unions, and following an application process, three of Britain’s largest and most successful credit unions – Plane Saver Credit Union, Police Credit Union and London Mutual Credit Union – have been selected to offer this service to Forces personnel.

Police Credit Union Chief Executive Peter Evans said: “The three credit unions are honoured to offer our services to Armed Forces personnel, and it is a great example of credit unions working co-operatively with each other and with the Ministry of Defence to deliver a service to the men and women of the Armed Forces.

“Joining a credit union gives military personnel access to regular savings and affordable credit with a financial services provider that understands their job and their lifestyle. Our credit unions can help them stay on top of their finances and steer clear of high cost lenders.”

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans Mark Lancaster MP said: “I’m delighted that credit union services will today be available to Armed Forces personnel. It is crucial that those service people who work so hard to keep Britain safe, both at home and abroad, can access easy and affordable ways to save and borrow.

“This helps to tackle an issue that has caused disadvantage and disappointment to some service members.”

One of the first people to join a credit union under the new arrangement is Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC. Lance Sergeant Beharry – who became the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross since 1969 for saving the lives of his comrades in Iraq – has joined London Mutual Credit Union.

Johnson Beharry VC said: “I am pleased to join London Mutual Credit Union and I look forward to spreading the word about this new scheme for military personnel. It is often difficult for people in the Armed Forces to gain access to financial services, especially those serving overseas who have little or no way of getting credit in the UK. By joining a credit union, Armed Forces personnel will be able to access affordable loans when they need them and to plan for the future by saving directly from their pay packets through payroll deduction.”

Internationally, credit unions have a proven record of providing services to Armed Forces personnel. The largest credit union in the world, Navy Federal Credit Union, has offered savings, loans and a range of financial products to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families since 1933. Today, the credit union has around 5.7 million members across America and assets of $70 billion.

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Charity Cake Bake success at Laserase Bolton

Amateur bakers from Bolton and beyond put on their aprons and whipped up some cake sensations for the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake at Laserase Bolton on Saturday 15 October.

Dorret Conway announcing the winners of the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake

Dorret Conway announcing the winners of the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake

Dorret Conway, one of the participants in this year’s Great British Bake Off, was one of the judges for the competition, along with Janet Marshall, cake development expert at Park Cakes in Bolton, and Keith Wallis, Senior Head Chef at the four star Holiday Inn Bolton Centre.

Dorret said: “It was lovely to be invited to judge the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake at Laserase Bolton and it’s certainly much more fun this side of the table! There were some amazing cakes and it is fantastic to see people making such an effort and getting so much pleasure out of baking.”

The event was organised to raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and to raise money for national charity Verity – which supports women whose lives are affected by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – and the Gynaecology and Dermatology departments of the Royal Bolton Hospital, which help women with this syndrome.

There were five categories in the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake: the Best Decorated Cake Award; the Tastiest Cake Award; the Most Creative Cake Award; the Young Baker Award and the Biggest Cake Catastrophe Award. There was also a Best Cake in the Competition Award.

Dorret Conway announced the results and prizes included afternoon tea for two at Slattery’s, a family run patissier and chocolatier in Whitefield, and dinner for two at the Holiday Inn Bolton Centre. An auction for a cake baked specially by Dorret, covered in cute white chocolate frogs, raised £50. Park Cakes kindly donated a superb cake for the charity raffle promoting PCOS, which was won by the hospital, and 2chefspassion donated a wonderful cake for the ‘guess the weight of the cake’ competition, which was won by 12 year old Abbie, who guessed 2.2kg when the weight was 2.3kg The cake bake was followed by a charity cake sale and afternoon tea.

Janet Marshall from Park Cakes said: “It’s nice to see that so many people still bake at home and to such a high standard – and it was great that there were entries from young people and both men and women.”

Keith Wallis added: “I very much enjoyed helping to judge the Big Bolton Charity Cake Bake. There were some very interesting flavours, which was a nice surprise, and all in all it was a very good day.”

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects millions of women. The symptoms of PCOS include ovarian cysts, irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, weight gain, excessive hair growth on the face and body, hair loss from the head, acne and the increased risk of getting certain types of cancer.

Julie Kershaw, Clinic Manager at Laserase Bolton, said: “We were delighted to welcome people to the clinic and to raise over £300 for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the Gynaecology and Dermatology departments of the hospital. We were pleased that so many people took the time to enter their cakes and to come along, and we would like to thank all those involved, especially Dorret and our other judges, for making it such a special occasion.”

Laserase Bolton is one of the leading laser clinics in the North West of England and has been established for over 20 years. It offers a range of treatments for PCOS sufferers, including laser hair reduction for treating excessive hair growth using the Soprano XL laser, and a number of treatments for managing acne, including NLite laser, AFT 420 pulsed light and medical skin peels. The clinic also offers a number of treatment products to ensure optimum results. All treatments are carried out by highly-experienced medical professionals following a free, no-obligation consultation.

To find out more about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the help available please visit There are also a number of informal local support groups around the country for women with PCOS to make contact with others in their area. The nearest local group to Bolton is in Manchester. To find out when and where they meet, or for information on other local support groups, email

Year of Adventure set to boost tourism to Wales

Travel professionals from UKinbound and Germany were amongst those in North Wales this weekend to experience adventure activities that are hoped will attract more overseas tourists to North West Wales and Anglesey in 2016.

Rib ride

The travel professionals took to the Menai Straits in a high speed rib.

The group representing tour operators and travel agencies were in Wales as part of the Discover Wales travel trade event which took place at the Quay Hotel and Spa, Deganwy on 1-2 October. The event is one of a series of initiatives to grow the sales of holidays in Wales through tour operators and travel agents in key international markets and was organised in partnership with UKinbound and VisitBritain.

Familiarisation tours of north and mid Wales took place before and after the event which included a fact finding trip put together by Visit Wales and Janet Redler Travel and Tourism to get a hands-on taste of the best leisure facilities available in North West Wales.

During their weekend in Wales the group spent time at the newly opened Surf Snowdonia, visited Penrhyn and Caernarfon castles, took the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, spent time in Portmeirion and took a high speed boat ride down the Menai Straits and through the Swellies.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates said: “2016 is the Year of Adventure in Wales and it will see Wales building on a wave of exciting new openings and developments, and more than 10 years of ongoing tourism investment to make Wales the leading adventure destination. Research has shown that familiarisation trips arranged by Visit Wales for operators to experience Wales tourism products are the most influential intervention in increasing an operator’s interest or ability to feature or sell Wales programmes.”

Speaking about the trip Janet Redler said: “As a tour operator bringing tourists from across the world to Wales, we know how much they appreciate the scenery, heritage and sporting activities available to them. Hosting this group has given us the opportunity to work with Visit Wales to show more people what this area has to offer which will hopefully lead to more overseas visitors to the area in the future – and that has to be good for the local economy.”

According to Janet Redler, travel and tourism is a growing sector of the Welsh economy. “Wales is a super destination for both holiday and business trips and we know that nearly a million overseas visitors come each year to enjoy a Welsh welcome. We want to help increase that number during the Year of Adventure in 2016.”


Credit union calls for volunteers to help with soaring demand

London Capital Credit Union logoLondon Capital Credit Union is looking for volunteers in the run up to Christmas as it deals with rocketing demand for its services. The credit union saw membership increase by 10% in September alone.

This follows a recent call by Sir Hector Sants, the former Chief Executive of the Financial Services Authority, who now heads up the Church of England’s taskforce on credit unions, asking people with a professional background to consider volunteering for a credit union or standing for election to the board, in order that credit unions can benefit from a wide range of expertise and ability.

Martin Groombridge, Chief Executive of London Capital Credit Union, says: “We are experiencing a high level of demand for our services at the moment, and this is likely to increase further in the run up to Christmas – our busiest time of year. So we are looking for people with a wide range of skills to donate some of their time to help us.”

As financial co-operatives, credit unions are owned and controlled by their members and rely on local volunteers to help deliver their services to the community. “Our volunteers get involved with the day-to-day running of the credit union,” explains Martin Groombridge. “Duties include customer services, handling phone enquiries, processing membership applications, helping to maintain our database and working on marketing materials.”

Sir Hector also called for more people to deposit money with a credit union – money which can then be lent out at an affordable rate of interest to help those in need. Those who save with a credit union then qualify for a share in the profits of the credit union in the form of an annual dividend.

Sir Hector’s comments came as the Church of England rolls out its programme to provide financial support through its new Credit Champions network across 2,000 churches. The initiative encourages church congregations to promote saving as an alternative to borrowing and to raise awareness of the role of credit unions in providing low cost loans in times of need. London Capital Credit Union is working with a number of churches across North London as part of the scheme.