“Our Credit Union did not have to develop a sense of community, or convince anyone of the benefits of self-help or the principles of people helping people. The community has demonstrated these values for generations.” Eileen Halligan
Liverpool lost 80,000 jobs between 1972 and 1982 as the docks closed and its manufacturing sector shrank by 50%.
The area saw huge unemployment in the city and the population halved as people left for work elsewhere.
The 1980’s started with arguably Liverpool’s lowest point when (along with other UK cities) riots broke out in Toxteth.
Those days felt like one long demonstration, against unemployment and against Thatcher.
Even the school children were demonstrating, including anti-Youth Training Scheme demos, viewed at the time as a form of conscription.
A unique City
Roy Gladden, a non-Militant Labour Councillor at the time said “Liverpool has always seen itself as separate from the rest of the country. As a city, it has more in common with Belfast and Glasgow than it does with London.
There was the big influx of Irish and, because it’s a port, it’s always been international. We look to America and Ireland – to New York and Dublin – more than we look to London.”
Musician Peter Hooton, who was then a youth worker on one of Liverpool’s poorest estates, Cantrill Farm. “When Thatcher was in power, we felt that she looked at Liverpool and thought: ‘Well, they’re not really English, are they?”
And as the 80s ended, utter disaster struck in April 1989.
The Hillsborough disaster. A tragedy for the whole city.
The picture is Anfield football stadium as mouners mark their respect. Read more.
The birth of our Credit Union
After a couple of small gatherings, a public meeting was organised to discuss establishing a Credit Union.
Over 100 people attended. Many were from Commonwealth Countries or Ireland, where credit unions had been a part of their life.
This is when we met Jean McAuley for the first time.
Jean had grown up with credit unions and her sister was a volunteer in Ballyhackamore Credit Union in Belfast. It had been registered since 1970. Jean was a lot more experienced than us novices. She played a pivotal part in this meeting by confirming the benefits of credit union membership.
Jean signed up that evening to become a member of the steering group and remained a volunteer until she died.
Our first year
Fr Leo Stoker was the first Chairperson of Park Road Credit Union.
He was also on the Board of The Phoenix Adult Centre in Wellington Road Liverpool 8 (formerly Wellington Road School, once attended by Billy Fury).
Leo enabled Park Road Community Credit Union to have its first registered office in the building in what was a pokey little cloakroom on the top floor.
Sister Hilary, (former headmistress of St Winifred’s School in Liverpool 8) was the Administrator of the centre. She had an office next door to the Credit Union.
She was a tyrant over her polished floors. Every time a member came in to pay she would scold them like naughty schoolchildren for walking on her floors. Like naughty schoolchildren some members were terrified of her. But beggars can’t be choosers. We were there rent free.
During our first year, Archbishop Worlock visited The Phoenix Adult Centre and the Credit Union. He was so impressed with what we were doing that he made a personal donation of £4,000. This was on the condition we used the money to benefit members.
At the start of our life as a credit union, it cost a minimum of £2 to join, £1 entrance fee with another £1 put into a member’s savings account. Members could only borrow when they’d saved regularly for at least 12 weeks. Consequently we were turning down new members who desperately needed an immediate loan.
It was proposed and accepted by the Board of Directors that we use the Archbishop’s donation as a loan guarantee fund in such cases, so we didn’t turn people away. Nor did we risk members’ savings.
We named this product The Archbishop Fund (ABF) and the interest from these loans would go back into the fund to enable the pot to grow.
Our first ABF loan
The ground floor of the Phoenix Centre housed a Social Services department. They would often send their clients who needed financial help. This is how we first met Marion Scott.
Marion had a £90 bill to pay that she could not afford, in fact, she even struggled to pay the £2 joining fee.
Marion was just the kind of person an ABF loan was designed for. We lent her £90 for the bill and £2 to join, and Marion has been an excellent member ever since.
“I have been in the credit union since 1989, and the first time I got a loan from them I came away and I was so happy -I paid the money each time it was due and saved a little money each week, I had never saved before, and my savings just grew and grew.
I have been in the credit union ever since, and I still recommend them to anyone that needs their help.” Marion Scott
Developing credit unions
Park Road Credit Union was in high demand to help other communities establish credit unions. However, given that it took Park Road five years to register, we felt that there needed to be local support created before more credit unions became established. We set up a development agency called Merseyside Credit Union Developmen Agency (MCUDA).
The Agency was awarded £60,000 from The Jospeh Rowntree Foundation. Volunteers would help other communities establish credit unions. This grant needed matched funding and Eileen Halligan and Bo Tsang, both volunteers in Park Road Credit Union, approached each of the five boroughs on Merseyside to match the funding and support MCUDA.
Bo went to work for Wirral Borough Council and helped set up Wirral Credit Union. Eileen has remained with Park Road Credit Union (now Central Liverpool Credit Union) to this day