Co-operative Party member Hannah Lister reports on the recent Summerfest training event for Co-operative Party activists on our new campaign to end legal loan sharking and promote credit unions as a safer, more affordable alternative.

The fight against loansharks and the promotion instead of fair and transparent Credit Unions is something that is a high priority on the Co-operative Party’s agenda.

Movement for Change held an inspiring training session at our Birmingham Summerfest that led to positive action that will be the first step towards combating legal loan sharks in Birmingham city centre.

Our action started when a group of around 50 co-operators headed out to Birmingham city centre to find out the extent of how these unfair legal loan sharks were sending people into a spiral of debt in one of Britain’s largest cities.

Through Movement for Change inspired ideas, we ran a listening campaign for around two hours, during which we spoke to dozens of people about their experiences of loan sharks.

The feedback we collated was invaluable in ensuring our campaign is properly targeted and informed as we move forward.

Our next step was to ask Councillor John Cotton, who holds the portfolio in the council for Social Cohesion and Equalities, to meet with us to sign a pledge that stated that Birmingham City Council would do its bit to help combat loan sharking.

As Cllr Cotton was about to sign the pledge, I also asked if he would commit to a meeting with fellow co-operators in September to work together with the Co-op Party to develop policy ideas and potential solutions to the growing problem of payday lenders.

Councillor Cotton committed to the meeting and we left feeling empowered, like we were immediately making a positive change in the community. If this can be replicated up and down the country, then the Co-op Party will be one step closer in helping to highlight the terrible way in which loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable people in society.

I now plan to take back the activity we did in Birmingham and replicate it in Scotland, and I know many of my fellow co-operators will be doing the same after the lessons we learned in the Movement for Change training session and action.

If we can sign up councillors across the UK to pledge to help, the movement against loan sharks is well on its way to spreading successfully throughout the UK.

After all, it’s the small community changes that cause the biggest ripple effects, and help to grow a huge concerted campaign.

The Sharkstoppers Campaign Pack can be downloaded here