There has probably never been a more appropriate climate for credit unions to prosper. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, people are keener than ever to place their assets in organisations that they have real trust in and control over. To fulfil its promise, however, the credit union sector must be supported by a regulatory framework that helps rather than hinders these groups to flourish.

That is why the Co-operative Party was so encouraged by the introduction of the Legislative Reform (Industrial and Provident Societies and Credit Unions) Order 2010 by the outgoing Labour Government. The LRO improves the current system and allows for greater flexibility over who credit unions can closely involve. The effect will be to encourage wider and deeper involvement from social enterprise and community groups.

The LRO followed on from two Private Members Bills that the Co-op Party promoted: Malcolm Wicks’ “Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 2010”, and Sir John Butterfill’s Mutuo-aided “Building Societies (Funding) and Mutual Societies (Transfer) Act 2007”. Between these two Acts and the LRO, the path to a brighter future for credit unions and financial mutuals seemed to be being cleared.

Ministers in the new Tory-led Coalition Government have been at great pains to point out their apparent commitment to the mutual sector, so it was disappointing to see Treasury Minister, Mark Hoban, in a speech to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions, decline to offer a date for the introduction of the LRO. Instead, we received a non-committal pledge that it would be implemented it at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

Labour & Cooperative MP Chris Evans and his colleague Kerry McCarthy MP had previously both pressed George Osborne and his Ministerial team for details about the timing of the LRO’s introduction, but thus far neither has received especially encouraging responses.

The LRO had originally been introduced on the 8th March under the previous Government, but it was postponed because of various complications. Credit Unions need the new rules, and at least need a timetable for its introduction. Mr Hoban’s recent comments beg a series of questions: why the delay? Why the lack of transparency over the reasons for the hold-up? When will it actually be introduced? So far, no convincing answers have been forthcoming.