County libraries to block access to payday loan websites

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Libraries in Northamptonshire are to block access to payday loan websites following an approach made by a county Citizens Advice Bureau.

In a move which has been adopted by other council’s around the country, library staff will instead refer customers to providers of independent advice and to credit unions.

Cllr Heather Smith, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for customer services, said: “These are tough times for many people and although a payday loan might seem like a good solution, their extremely high interest rates mean it is often the beginning of a huge debt that will only cause more stress and financial problems in the long run.

“It makes good sense for the library service to do what it can to protect people and discourage them from accessing these websites, and instead point them to where they can get independent advice and information.”

The move was prompted by Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau’s recent acquisition of consumer empowerment partnership lead status, enabling it to work across the region to educate consumers and improve enforcement where traders break the law.

Martin Lord, chief executive of Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We’ve obviously been aware for a number of years of the pernicious and growing problem of payday loans.

“These companies operate a business model which depends to some extent on advertising their products on the internet, and with interest rates as high as 5,000 per cent we are obviously keen for a very clear message to be sent out to consumers about the dangers of these loans. This is a very welcome move by the libraries service.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau service nationally has been campaigning to bring in tighter regulation of the payday loan sector and warns that with benefit changes coming up, people will turn to short-term lenders in increasing numbers.

Mr Lord said: “Payday loans provide a short-term fix, but in the long term, our experience has been that taking one out almost always makes things worse.

“We would encourage anyone with the sort of financial difficulties that drives people to these loans, to take independent advice in the first instance, and would also encourage people to consider using credit unions as an alternative. There is also a lot of information and support available online using our website”