Monday, 1 December 2014

Credit where it's due this Christmas

Credit where it’s due this Christmas

I have to admit I’d never really heard of the shopping phenomenon that is Black Friday until last week.

But the news coverage and some of the, quite frankly bizarre, footage we’ve seen of people literally fighting over the last item on the shelf really shows something quite worrying.

We all love a bargain; especially in the lead up to Christmas. Apparently, on average, we’ll all fork out more than £500 on festivities and present buying this year.

It’s easy to get carried away. But then I look at some of the tenants I’ve met in recent months. Struggling to pay their rent, not eating meals themselves so they can feed their children, relying on food parcels, struggling to find work.

Affordable borrowing with the credit union
The pressure to spend at Christmas - and to spend way beyond our means is there for everyone to see. Whether it’s scrapping over a bargain at Asda or desperately trying to find a few extra pounds from anywhere to get that present that you know that someone you care about really wants. And quite often it’s the really important bills, like rent, which suffer.

And that’s where pay day lenders make their money. They know that people are desperate and they know that people are borrowing more than they can afford. So they hand out the cash, at extortionate rates, and create what feels like a perpetual cycle of debt…a cycle, which for many tenants in Wolverhampton it feels near impossible to break.

Earlier today the Wolverhampton City Credit Union launched a campaign to get 10,000 members.

I know some people will say that encouraging people to take out loans full-stop is irresponsible. But borrowing money, sensibly and affordably is fine. That’s exactly what the credit union allows people to do. It allows them to access affordable credit - to buy things like school uniforms, their football season tickets or maybe even a holiday. Or to help them out when something goes wrong – like the car breaking down. It’s a community-based ethical bank who estimate that last year alone saved its 5,000+ members more than £655,000 compared to if they’d borrowed from the likes of Wonga.

I’m delighted that my colleagues at Wolverhampton Homes are saving with the credit union. Through our payroll, more than 10% of my colleagues pay in to a credit union account every month. As indeed do I and the Chair of our board, Sue Roberts MBE.

Christmas is an expensive time of the year. But if there’s one thing I’d like for Christmas this year, it’s to see the back of unscrupulous money lending.

Forget Black Friday bargains – opening an account with the credit union could just be the best investment you’ll make.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Over 40 reasons to be proud at Pride

Saturday for me was all about Pride. Pride for the LGBT* community in Wolverhampton and also pride for my colleagues who were there in the parade and on our stall.

Over 40 of my colleagues were at Wolverhampton Pride, including members of our Proud to be Me Network, other colleagues and board members - a mix of LGBT* and straight allies. Everyone was standing proud to support LGBT* equality in our city.

This is the third Wolverhampton Pride we’ve supported and this year we felt it was so important that we were one of the main sponsors.

However it’s not just an issue that’s important once a year; At Wolverhampton Homes we are working throughout the year to become one of the best places to work for LGBT* staff in the UK and to provide great services for our LGBT* customers.

For over 18 months, our Proud to be me Network have been the key part of this work. They are a growing group of over 20 LGBT* and straight ally staff who are playing a vital role both within Wolverhampton Homes and in the community. They support and advise staff and work closely with LGBT Network Wolverhampton to make sure our services meet the needs of everyone.

I am so proud of the work they have been doing and I’m so proud that we had over 40 colleagues supporting them at this year’s Pride.

I was also really pleased to see the reaction of the people in the city, taking photos and videos on their mobiles and getting involved in the carnival atmosphere. In the year that same-sex marriage became legal it’s wonderful to see LGBT* equality becoming more of a mainstream issue.

Together we’re making a difference and Pride gives us a chance to celebrate that fact as well as show our support. Hopefully one day we won't need Pride because, no one will care who loves who, and people will accept people for who they are. That is my utopia because I truly believe that everyone has the right to be themselves and to be proud of who they are.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

50 - It's a magic number

50 – it’s a magic number

Give people an opportunity and they’ll make the most of it – it’s just a shame that more people don’t do just that.

Deborah and I all kitted-up!
I was delighted to meet up with Deborah Porter earlier this week. Chances are you haven’t heard of Deborah. But for me – Deborah is a symbol. She’s a symbol of what someone can do when they’re given a chance to succeed. Deborah is the 50th apprentice who we’ve taken on through our double-award winning LEAP programme.

She’s the latest in what is becoming a long line of tenants who we’ve been able to help by giving training, work experience - and in some cases, full time work.

Deb makes it 50 apprentices
Deborah joined us a few months ago – after being out of work for ten years. She’s worked in different factories over the years but never really had the chance to excel. What I really like about Deborah is her determination to be better. Off her own back, she enrolled at college and became a qualified carpenter; a profession that too few women have taken up. But she could never put those skills into practice because there was no-one who was willing to take a chance on her. She enrolled in our LEAP programme and I’m delighted that she’s our 50th apprentice! She’s thriving in her new role on our handyperson scheme.

She seems to be really enjoying herself as well. And that’s what makes apprenticeships so rewarding for a company like ours. Seeing people who no-one else would take a chance on, really enjoying their work and really making the most of the opportunity which has come their way.

Ignore those who continually knock our city or who seem to take a perverse enjoyment in demonising those who live in council houses, Wolverhampton has a wealth of people who are desperate to do a good job – they just need to be given the chance and the confidence to succeed; and I couldn’t be prouder that LEAP is giving some of them that very chance.