30/10/2013 The Wales Report


30/10/2013

Huw Edwards asks if education policy in Wales is making the grade. And with energy prices on the rise, is there a Welsh solution to keeping bills down?


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Zbl tonight on the Walesor, does education policy in Wales make

:00:07.:00:14.

sense? How can a school class that's excellent be set for closure? Gas

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and electricity prices on rise again, but could Wales take the lead

:00:20.:00:23.

in tackling the big six companies. And, fighting the fight against

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payday loans, we meet the vicar who backs everyone to -- urges everyone

:00:29.:00:38.

to back Welsh credit unions Zbl zbl zbl good evening. Welcome to the

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Wales report where we examine the issues that affect lives in Wales

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and question some of those making the decisions Zbl tonight, we start

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with the challenges facing Welsh schools. It's been three years since

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the worldwide ranking of education systems known as PISA found that

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Welsh attainment levels in reading, maths and science were the worst in

:01:01.:01:06.

the UK and needed urgent attention. Local education authorities have

:01:07.:01:09.

been under huge pressure to up their game. Six are currently in special

:01:10.:01:16.

measures, including Torvine. Pontnewynydd Primary School is the

:01:17.:01:20.

only school to get an sxel lent rating by inspectors, but it's been

:01:21.:01:24.

selected for closure -- excellent rating. Helen's been listening to

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the concerns of parent who is seem to need a lot of convincing that

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Wales has the coherent strategy that it needs Zbl colour Pontnewynydd

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Primary lives up to its school motto - only the best is good enough. It's

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the only school dein this area described as excellent

:01:53.:01:56.

across-the-board Zbl it's sector leading in some areas Zbl while the

:01:57.:02:02.

school gets top marks, the local education authority is failing. One

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of six LEAs are currently in special measures. Many are exasperated that

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instead of getting the school to share its best practice,

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Pontnewynydd has been selected for closure Zbl nchts thank you very

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much for coming today... Zbl the governors have called a special

:02:25.:02:30.

meeting to voice their dismay Zbl ncht I really think they should

:02:31.:02:33.

rethink about the closure of Pontnewynydd school because it's an

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excellent school. The only excellent school in the borough. We can't

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believe they are coming out with this proposal when it's the best

:02:45.:02:48.

performing school. Gives this emthe right to shut it or propose to shut

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it? Because the pupil numbers here are down, it doesn't comply with a

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different education policy designed to reduce surplus places. Parents

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and governors here think that Pontnewynydd and other schools like

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it are falling victim to conflicting education policies. They say that

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strategy is muddled and that trying to find out who's responsible for

:03:31.:03:36.

different aspects of education is utterly baffling It doesn't seem to

:03:37.:03:39.

add up at the moment. There's no commune caution between the

:03:40.:03:42.

education authority, the council, the school, the governors. Who is

:03:43.:03:51.

responsible for education services in Wales and who is making these

:03:52.:03:57.

crucial decisions? At the moment, Welsh Government policy is filtered

:03:58.:04:01.

down through 22 local education authorities. Democratically

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accountable to you. If those authorities fail to make the grade,

:04:06.:04:09.

then they are subject to intervention by one of four

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Government-appointed bodies, tasked with driving up school standards,

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otherwise known as the regional consortia. On top of that, Education

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Minister Hugh Lewis recently announced a national model to

:04:23.:04:26.

improve schools. Confused? The man in charge of the body brought in to

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prop up the area act nones that current arrangements can appear

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mystifying. It must be confusing. Even coming together as a country

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deciding on national model so looking across four regional models

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that were different up to now would cause even greater confusion. We

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recognise that. Adding to the confusion, the Williams Review. This

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changing picture of, are they going to be 22 local authorities builds

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further complexities into what the future will look like For the pupils

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at Pontnewynydd and the other 73,000 children across Wales currently

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being schooled in areas under special measures, it's now that

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counts. The battle to keep this school open goes on They face an

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uncertain future until a final is made -- decision is made next year.

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Someone needs to decide quickly. Everyone keeps saying 22 authorities

:05:31.:05:34.

is too much, but nobody seems to be actually saying what the solution is

:05:35.:05:37.

or what some of the proposed solutions are. According to the

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parents here, only when the system itself is clear, coherent and puts

:05:42.:05:46.

excellence first will children in Wales get the education they

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deserve. I don't think people know who is running what and I think from

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a personal perspective, so long as it runs well, and my child's happy

:05:58.:06:04.

that,'s what's important to me. If they practise joined up writing in

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school but they don't practise joined up thinking, why don't they

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sit round the table and discuss education properly? Some forthright

:06:12.:06:15.

views from the parents there in Pontnewynydd. Naturally, we asked

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the Education Minister, Hugh Lewis to appear on the programme to answer

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some of those points, but he was unavailable. We received a written

:06:24.:06:26.

statement from the Welch Government saying: It cannot comment on a

:06:27.:06:30.

specific proposal from an individual local authority. It goes on to say

:06:31.:06:34.

that the interests of learners should be paramount. With that in

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mind, joining me now is the Director of The Association of teech rs and

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lecturers in Wales, Phillip Dixon. Do you blame parents for being

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concerned? Not at all. It's a very confusing situation and the

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commentator who said they need to do joined up thinking is spot on.

:06:54.:06:59.

What's gone wrong? A lot of it rests with the local authority. There was

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a lot of drift and Duncan Smither in Government policy, we weren't clear

:07:07.:07:09.

what should be the top Brightonties. Those things are getting better but

:07:10.:07:17.

there's still confusion for teachers and for pupils. How soon should they

:07:18.:07:23.

reduce the local authorities? Much fewer than 22 and as soon as

:07:24.:07:26.

possible. The frustration the parents that got there, I share

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that, we have been talking about there for over a decade. Let's do

:07:31.:07:33.

something about it and reduce the number and get to it a sensible

:07:34.:07:37.

number. Is that to do with confusion in terms of the number or to do with

:07:38.:07:41.

confusion about the quality of work and the quality of supervision from

:07:42.:07:45.

the local authorities themselves? Are they underperforming?

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Definitely. We see six have been put into special measures. We are a

:07:51.:07:54.

small country, about three million people live here, we have 22 local

:07:55.:08:00.

authorities when really if you look across the border to England, we

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should have three or four at most. When there is a battle, we are in

:08:06.:08:14.

that climate, does what is happening in Pontnewynydd make sense? Not

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initially because you have an excellent school there. Up to see

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that practice spread out and amalling plated. -- amalgamated.

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There is a confusion about the key priorities and what the Government

:08:28.:08:31.

needs be setting to do that and policing and enforcing it and making

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sure the 22 authorities are following the line. What would you

:08:36.:08:40.

like the Education Minister to do? How clear and coherent could the

:08:41.:08:45.

strategy be and something that is not ten years in the making? It's to

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reiterate what we have seen before, the key priorities are literacy and

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numeracy and insisting that's filtered through all policies, so

:08:56.:08:59.

when schools are judged on whether they are failing or not, when we see

:09:00.:09:04.

proposals of school closures that is the criteria that are used. Do your

:09:05.:09:09.

colleagues accept some responsibility for underperformance

:09:10.:09:14.

where it happens? Is there an issue with standards of teaching in Ways

:09:15.:09:18.

which is possibly a bigger problem than say in Scotland or England --

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Wales? I don't think there's a difference in standard of teaching.

:09:24.:09:27.

There's always one or two teachers that shouldn't perhaps be in the

:09:28.:09:30.

profession, we accept that. The real problem has been the confusion

:09:31.:09:35.

created by having 22 local authorities, createded from the top

:09:36.:09:38.

by the Government over the last ten years, where it's not given the

:09:39.:09:41.

clear message. That's the problem. I remember talking to a head teach er

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who said he's had a different priority and he's been ahead for

:09:47.:09:50.

eight years. Which can't go on like that. We need a clear direction that

:09:51.:09:53.

these are the things that matter for the next ten years I'm asking the

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question because we are facing a new set of PISA report results. Let us

:09:59.:10:04.

hope they are improved. Even if they are, there's still a gap that Wales

:10:05.:10:08.

has to make up. I'm wondering again, is it very easy for teachers to say

:10:09.:10:13.

it's nothing to do with us, it's all to do with strategy and the bigger

:10:14.:10:17.

picture, shouldn't the politicians be accepting more of the

:10:18.:10:21.

responsibility for the fact that numeracy, literacy is such a big

:10:22.:10:26.

problem in Wales? I share your hope but I fear the PISA results will be

:10:27.:10:34.

worse this time around. Teachers are very concerned because they want the

:10:35.:10:41.

best possible outcomelets -- outcomes. The vast majority of

:10:42.:10:45.

teachers want to deliver for pupils, but they need the resources to do

:10:46.:10:49.

that. We have seen chronic underfunding and we have had this

:10:50.:10:53.

drift and dither in policy until very recently. Perve- you -- thank

:10:54.:11:11.

you very much. British Gas agonised over the issue of rising prices How

:11:12.:11:19.

can the profits be fair when people can't afford to pay for their

:11:20.:11:24.

energy? The reason it's fair is because if I don't make a 5% profit

:11:25.:11:28.

in my business, I can't afford to continue employing my 20,000 people

:11:29.:11:33.

who're equally members of society in Britain and I can't afford top

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operate the company. It's a fraction of what mobile phone companies make

:11:38.:11:42.

and not as much as supermarkets make. Some of the evidence in

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Parliament yesterday. In Wales, we have the distinction of having the

:11:47.:11:49.

highest average electricity prices in the UK despite producing more

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than we use. The average dual fuel bill is ?14 100 and -- ?1400. Is

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there a specifically Welsh solution to the problem? An our ya that

:12:04.:12:11.

supplies to some businesses and homes is a nonprofit company. Some

:12:12.:12:19.

politicians sthawingt a version of this model could be the future for

:12:20.:12:25.

electricity generation in Wales. Here is how the model works. Since

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the water industry was privatised in 1989, Welsh Water existed in a Faw

:12:32.:12:37.

guise and forms -- few guises and forms. Chris Jones, the current

:12:38.:12:40.

Chief Executive, went away and decided to set up a company set up

:12:41.:12:48.

to own, manage and finance Welsh Water essentially as we deliver

:12:49.:12:51.

water and waste water services to around three million customers

:12:52.:12:55.

across most of Wales and the adjoining parts of England. The

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company itself is a company limited by guarantee. It's unique in that we

:12:59.:13:03.

don't have any shareholders, any financial surpluses that we have can

:13:04.:13:07.

be directed back into the company for the benefit of customers. That's

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obviously evidence not only in reduced bills, and we are looking to

:13:13.:13:17.

reduce bills in real terms by around 6% between 2010 and 2015. The model

:13:18.:13:22.

works because we have the best credit ratings across the utility

:13:23.:13:29.

sector in the UK. It delivers for customers Could Wales take the lead

:13:30.:13:33.

therefore in changing the energy market? Joining me now from

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Westminster, the former Welsh Secretary, former Energy Minister,

:13:38.:13:42.

Peter Hain and in Bangor, there's the newly elected assembly member.

:13:43.:13:48.

Peter, to you first of all is. The problem that the power to change

:13:49.:13:54.

energy policy is not here in Wales? At the present time, the problem is,

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this is a cartel of big energy companies, international ones, that

:14:00.:14:03.

are rigging the markets, and we saw MPs told yesterday by a small energy

:14:04.:14:11.

supplier who's head, Steven Fitzpatrick, said he's buying

:14:12.:14:15.

electricity at a lower wholesale price than two years ago. Yet we

:14:16.:14:20.

have seen 10% increases over the last year on top of increases in

:14:21.:14:25.

previous years and actually, to consumers and wholesale prices have

:14:26.:14:29.

been going down. Wholesale prices fell last year by under 2%. Yet

:14:30.:14:36.

energy prices have shot up by nearly 10%. This is, in a market that's

:14:37.:14:41.

wrong, Wales is suffering from it, my constituents, some of them can't

:14:42.:14:45.

heat their homes any more because otherwise they wouldn't be able to

:14:46.:14:48.

feed themselves. So there is an issue about a Welsh dimension, but

:14:49.:14:54.

frankly this is a UK-wide problem that needs to be fixed at a UK

:14:55.:14:59.

level? Do you buy that I don't. Because what we have seen in the

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face of this cartel is a complete failure by successive UK Governments

:15:05.:15:08.

to deal with the issue which is that people are being forced to pay over

:15:09.:15:11.

the odds because the big six are being allowed to get away with it.

:15:12.:15:16.

We are saying that within the powers that we have already in Wales, we

:15:17.:15:21.

can set up a not for dividend company, such as the model that's

:15:22.:15:28.

current that would work in the interests of the people of Wales

:15:29.:15:32.

that should be allowed to get the energy at a fair price that. Can't

:15:33.:15:36.

happen under the current system. You look at the broad picture though,

:15:37.:15:40.

both of you, you have specific interests given what you represent

:15:41.:15:44.

and your policy interests in the pasts. Peter where renewable energy

:15:45.:15:48.

is concerned, are we at the position where if the Welsh Government had

:15:49.:15:54.

the power to do it, we could push ahead with some renewable energy? I

:15:55.:15:59.

would like to think so. Some of the decisions made in Wales, not just by

:16:00.:16:04.

the Welsh Government, but by local authorities, have been negative as

:16:05.:16:07.

far as renewable energy's concerned. Such as? Objections to windfarms for

:16:08.:16:13.

example. I'm not in favour of them carpeting the whole of Wales'

:16:14.:16:18.

countryside and hills, but I'm in favour of combatting climate change.

:16:19.:16:22.

In the recent turmoil in our weather, that's wreaking havoc and

:16:23.:16:28.

imposing huge costs. You need more clean green energy. The Severn

:16:29.:16:32.

Barrage is my favourite option. But the problem is what you do about the

:16:33.:16:35.

rigged electricity market and beyond that, I would like to see Wales

:16:36.:16:40.

leading the way. Within that picture, you didn't mention plans

:16:41.:16:45.

for nuclear energy which are important in Wales as well. Do you

:16:46.:16:51.

welcome the plans, Peter, or not? I welcome nuclear as a way of

:16:52.:16:55.

replacing key power stations, including nuclear ones reaching the

:16:56.:16:59.

end of their life and we have a problem about keeping the lights on.

:17:00.:17:05.

Actually, the Hinkley nuclear power stations, enormously more costly

:17:06.:17:09.

than the Severn Barrage for instance, and you could build a

:17:10.:17:14.

Severn Barrage at a much cheaper price, privately financed and

:17:15.:17:19.

produce electricity over its lime time that's half or three quarters

:17:20.:17:24.

cheaper. That's what I think we should do. Give than cost, what

:17:25.:17:28.

would you say to the voters that says to you, why are you seemingly

:17:29.:17:34.

happenty to accept that on your doorstep which it's incredibly

:17:35.:17:39.

expensive? It's interesting to hear Peter's comments. There's not much

:17:40.:17:43.

difference in our opinions and it shows that every political party is

:17:44.:17:48.

having to deal with the pros and cons of the near power. I won't

:17:49.:17:53.

stand in the way of Peter Hain eats comments. There is an issue there in

:17:54.:17:58.

that we have spent decades trying to find a consix on that. Perhaps what

:17:59.:18:02.

we'd like to do is concentrate on things we can do now. Remind us,

:18:03.:18:07.

because you side stepped the nuclear issue there, what is your policy

:18:08.:18:11.

there? Our policy is clear, because we have real concerns within the

:18:12.:18:18.

party, buttel I'll tell you one thing -- but I'll tell you one

:18:19.:18:23.

thing, people are concerned about issues of cost, safety. On the other

:18:24.:18:27.

hand, you have issues of economy. We come to different balances. I say,

:18:28.:18:32.

for my constituents on Anglesey excited about the prospect of jobs,

:18:33.:18:36.

that is something we can work with as part of, as we remember, UK

:18:37.:18:40.

energy policy, whilst telling the other people on the other sides of

:18:41.:18:44.

the argument yes, of course, your concerns are valid. I agree with, as

:18:45.:18:52.

Peter Hain does, agreez with many of the concerns. -- agrees. He's made a

:18:53.:19:00.

good point there. I want to add one other thing directed at David

:19:01.:19:03.

Cameron. He's trying, as is the Chancellor, to cut the subsidy for

:19:04.:19:09.

renewable energy. It amounts, together with social subsidies, to

:19:10.:19:14.

insulate poor people's houses and pensioner's homes and so on, which

:19:15.:19:18.

is absolutely vital with sky high bills that. Accounts, greej energy,

:19:19.:19:23.

plus the social cost, for under 10% of our bills. The big companies have

:19:24.:19:30.

put up prices by 10%, so the Prime Minister, in seeking to attack green

:19:31.:19:36.

energy is barking up entirely the wrong tree.- both very much The

:19:37.:19:40.

rising price of energy is one of the main reasons given by people for

:19:41.:19:45.

falling into debt. No surprise, say experts, that more and more people

:19:46.:19:50.

are turning to day day loans, the controversial form of lending which

:19:51.:19:53.

often carries sky high interest rates. The Archbishop of Canterbury

:19:54.:19:57.

has already declared war on the payday loan companies. One of his

:19:58.:20:02.

colleagues, Brian Pippin, says the answer is clear, there are 70,000

:20:03.:20:07.

members of credit unions in Wales, that number is expected to double by

:20:08.:20:15.

2020. He chairs the Gateway community and says it's a model for

:20:16.:20:26.

Paul of Wales. -- model for all of Wales. The church for some of us is

:20:27.:20:35.

a moral compass, our Sunday mornings, our sense of being, our

:20:36.:20:42.

financial guide. Back in 1999, the church in Wales made four annual

:20:43.:20:49.

grants of ?15,000 to part fund the credit union officer working out of

:20:50.:20:53.

the Cooperative centre. That money helped to kick start many of the

:20:54.:21:01.

credit unions in Wales Three years earlier in 19let 6, myself and other

:21:02.:21:07.

church members and members of other congregations in Pontypool and of

:21:08.:21:11.

this community, helped set up gateway credit union here in

:21:12.:21:17.

Pontypool. We started with just 22 members and now we have 2,500

:21:18.:21:24.

members. We have 12 collection points and three offices in the high

:21:25.:21:30.

streets around the counties During that time, we have lent millions of

:21:31.:21:35.

pounds to the financially vulnerable.

:21:36.:21:42.

It was started to have some means of offering an alternative to the

:21:43.:21:49.

doorstep lenders and loan sharks that were very prevalent in the

:21:50.:21:58.

early 90s. Morning... Many, many years ago, we did go to one of these

:21:59.:22:02.

companies that would come and collect the money with high interest

:22:03.:22:06.

rates. I'd never go back to that and I never want to I'm here for my son

:22:07.:22:16.

today. Basically, he's only 21, he's finding it very difficult to get

:22:17.:22:20.

credit. Really, I'm just trying to instil into him basically being able

:22:21.:22:26.

to manage his money. When people are desperate to pay the money, to pay a

:22:27.:22:31.

bill, tax the car or to cover an emergency, the signs in this window

:22:32.:22:36.

seem to give the simple and quick answer. A A beinger attraction is

:22:37.:22:46.

the bead at which you can get the money. You can go online, 15-20

:22:47.:22:52.

minutes, the money can be in your account. -- a big attraction is that

:22:53.:23:00.

the speed at which you can get the money. It can become a fabric of

:23:01.:23:05.

society. Payday loans depend on desperation. Isn't it time we

:23:06.:23:12.

inVoyced in our -- invested in our credit unions so they survive and

:23:13.:23:17.

thrive to kill off this exploitive industry?

:23:18.:23:26.

Joining me now is Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, mentioned in

:23:27.:23:36.

that report. And Russell Hamblin-Boon. Welcome to you both

:23:37.:23:40.

and thank you for joining us. Archbishop, credit unions are a sign

:23:41.:23:45.

of desperation? Not at all. Payday loan companies are a sign of

:23:46.:23:49.

desperation because people go to them because they need money

:23:50.:23:54.

desperately. Either for food or for some essential equipment for the

:23:55.:24:00.

house, or to pay off other loans. Consequently, that's the desperate

:24:01.:24:06.

default point. It seems to me that credit unions provide an alternative

:24:07.:24:11.

because they don't charge anything like the rate. It's 2% at the

:24:12.:24:15.

minute, it will go up to 3% next year. If you take out loans from

:24:16.:24:20.

payday company, you can be paying 3, 4, 5,000% interest and very often,

:24:21.:24:27.

people just go to the wall. What is the place, Russell, as you see it,

:24:28.:24:34.

of payday loan companies in the role of financial services? I don't

:24:35.:24:37.

disagree with the Archbishop that things are difficult for people.

:24:38.:24:42.

Prices are going up, salaries are not rising. People are financially

:24:43.:24:47.

stressed. A short-term loan from a reputable lender, the type of

:24:48.:24:50.

businesses that I represent that belong to my trade association, may

:24:51.:24:55.

be able to help people this that situation. Equally, they may be able

:24:56.:24:59.

to get. Help from a credit union. The difference, I would say, is that

:25:00.:25:04.

with a short-term loan, while you have to go through all of the checks

:25:05.:25:10.

and measures, as if you were applying for a credit card or

:25:11.:25:15.

looking for finance for a sew far for -- sofa for Christmas or

:25:16.:25:19.

something, they may be able to get the money to you more conveniently

:25:20.:25:23.

and quickly. We don't charge thousands of percent interest. The

:25:24.:25:28.

cost is explained in paoundz pence and it's on average ?25 per ?100

:25:29.:25:34.

that you borrow. Which is still pretty significant? It's a more

:25:35.:25:40.

expensive way of financing, but for many people, it isn't an option. For

:25:41.:25:45.

many people, it's a convenient and safe way of them managing their

:25:46.:25:51.

wider budgetary expenses. That is a point, isn't it, that if the company

:25:52.:25:57.

are clear about the charges, if they are very open about the way they

:25:58.:26:01.

bring in their money and given the fact that they are in the

:26:02.:26:04.

profit-making business, what is wrong with it? When you are

:26:05.:26:08.

desperate, you don't think of the implications. 25%, to begin with, is

:26:09.:26:12.

a huge rate of interest. The trouble is, of course, people can't pay back

:26:13.:26:17.

the capital sum to they are paying interest on interest and on the

:26:18.:26:22.

capital sum. Why I'm in favour of credit union is, that although it

:26:23.:26:27.

may be complicated to join it, if it became more respectable in this

:26:28.:26:31.

country, as it is in Ireland and America, where they are part of the

:26:32.:26:35.

fabric of society in a way thatter in not in mainland Britain, then I

:26:36.:26:39.

think more people would pay into them and we'd be able to help more

:26:40.:26:44.

people to get short-term loans at a vastly reduced rate of progress. The

:26:45.:26:49.

Archbishop of Canterbury famously said he wanted to put one of these

:26:50.:26:53.

firms out of business, the firms that you represent. Given the fact

:26:54.:27:00.

that we are talk competition here, credit unions would be competing for

:27:01.:27:03.

business. Would you not see them as a threat? I met with the

:27:04.:27:09.

Archbishop's team of staff to talk through the campaign to see if there

:27:10.:27:16.

was anything that we can do to help. They immediate it very clear that

:27:17.:27:21.

the campaign is not an anti-payday lender cam Pape, and we fully

:27:22.:27:27.

support that. One way perhaps we might be able to move the campaign

:27:28.:27:32.

forward is to talk to the businesses I represent, talk to me, rather than

:27:33.:27:37.

attack us, to ask us, how could we do this better, what are you doing

:27:38.:27:42.

that we could replicate in order to improve our business. Part of your

:27:43.:27:50.

case is attacking snell These are the positive advantages of joining

:27:51.:27:54.

the union, rather than borrowing money from payday companies. I

:27:55.:27:59.

recognise that perhaps some of the companies represented by our friend

:28:00.:28:02.

are very respectable ones, but there are lots of payday loan sharks out

:28:03.:28:13.

there who charge interest rates of 4-5,000% and they are grossly

:28:14.:28:17.

immoral. You are say you don't represent those? Certainly not

:28:18.:28:23.

disreputable businesses and scrupulous lenders. A lot of people

:28:24.:28:27.

whoer turned down by reputable lenders might actually end up in the

:28:28.:28:30.

hands of those people, rathered than going to a dread union and perhaps

:28:31.:28:34.

there's something we can do to work together to make sure the right

:28:35.:28:38.

people are using the credit unions, as well as not having the option if

:28:39.:28:41.

they want to of taking out a short-term loan through a payday

:28:42.:28:45.

lender. That would be wonderful. If that were to happen and we could

:28:46.:28:49.

help more people, no-one would be more pleased than I Thank you both

:28:50.:28:55.

very much That is it for this week. Any comments or questions, please

:28:56.:29:02.

get in touch. You can e-mail us and we are on Twitter too. We'll be back

:29:03.:29:09.

next Wednesday. Until then, thanks for watching. Good night.

:29:10.:29:13.

Tonight on the Wales Report with Huw Edwards - is education policy in Wales making the grade? And with energy prices on the rise - is there a Welsh solution to keeping bills down?


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