Finance: Unity Bank hits its voluntary sector lending target

Unity Trust Bank has announced a large increase in business with the social economy sector.

The bank says deposits from charities, credit unions and community development finance institutions increased by 20 per cent in 2005 to a total of £162m.

Loans to the voluntary sector grew by 36 per cent to £6.65m, more than half the total lending by the bank.

The figures fulfil its target, announced in 2004, to ensure that half of all its future lending would be to voluntary organisations.

The bank is also part of the consortium that created Futureuilders, the Home Office-backed finance provider designed to promote voluntary sector public service delivery.

Organisations that have negotiated loans with Unity include the east London-based ethical lender Fair Finance, the Southampton Centre for Independent Living and drugs charity Barca-Leeds.

Kevin Turmore, managing director of Unity, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to support such a wide range of social enterprises and charities in the UK.

"We see partnership with these organisations, which might not otherwise be able to access mainstream banking and lending services, as central to our drive to carry out our business in a socially responsible way."

The bank made pre-tax profits of £4.84m in 2005, a 17 per cent increase on the £4.13m it recorded in 2004.

Stephanie Lennon, marketing and communications manager at Unity, said the big four clearing banks' share of the charity market had dropped below 80 per cent, to the benefit of niche providers.

"People are shopping around more and judging their banks on the packages they can get," she said.

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