FINANCE NEWS: Bank expands community loans

MATHEW LITTLE

The Bank of Scotland has trebled the size of its community banking team as it seeks to expand its loan services and partnership agreements to voluntary organisations in England and Wales.

The bank has a target of injecting £20 million of lending into a mixture of charities, social enterprises, community development trusts, community development finance institutions, registered social landlords and child care providers.

Four new members have been recruited to the team, which will operate as a commercial arm of the bank's business banking division. The bank merged with the Halifax last year to form HBOS.

The bank signed Europe's first community banking agreement in 2001 with Wester Hailes Representative Council in Edinburgh, which enabled it to promote basic bank accounts, insurance and saving accounts to financially excluded local residents in the deprived suburb of the city.

It now plans to develop a further 12 community banking agreements across England and Wales, based on the Wester Hailes model.

"Now we have established that it works, we want to replicate it elsewhere in the UK," said a spokesman at the Bank of Scotland. The bank has a target of £100 million worth of new deposits and loans to alleviate financial exclusion and plans to extend its loan programme along the same lines as the Scotland model.

In January, it gave a £800,000 loan to One Plus, which enabled the Glasgow-based one parent family and child care organisation to gain funding from the European Social Fund.

The bank is also seeking partnership agreements with housing associations to offer saving and loans schemes to tenants.

Craig Campbell, head of community banking at the Bank of Scotland, said: "This a significant step forward in our overriding aim of tackling financial exclusion. The breadth of skills within the team will allow us to focus more on lending into emerging social economy sector and, at the same time, use our relationships with existing and new housing associations to look at ways of providing access to financial services to their tenants that might otherwise be out of their reach."

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