City campaign against loan sharks extended

A SCHEME to rid Leeds of loan sharks is to be extended for an extra four years.

Leeds Council’s executive board has agreed to extend existing arrangements with Birmingham City Council to continue the Illegal Money Lending Project, which has been in place since 2008.

A partnership between West Yorkshire Trading Standards and Birmingham Trading Standards has been operating since 2008 to investigate and tackle illegal money lenders operating across West Yorkshire.

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This nationally funded loan sharks enforcement team investigates complaints about illegal moneylending and takes enforcement action, at no cost to Leeds Council.

To enable Leeds to continue in the national scheme using the Birmingham Loan Shark Team, the executive board has agreed to extend the delegation to Birmingham City Council to enable its officers to carry out investigations and instigate legal proceedings on Leeds’s behalf.

The partnership will now continue for at least another four years until March 2015.

Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “This partnership has already proved to be very successful but there are still unscrupulous money lenders out there, who need to be stopped.

“Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable members of society and place whole communities under their control and influence. By extending this agreement we can ensure these sharks will have no place to hide in our city now and for the coming years.”

The team, operated by Birmingham’s Trading Standards Service, has uncovered loan sharks who have terrorised whole communities, charging extortionate amounts of interest on loans given, adding indiscriminate charges to the loan when they feel like it and using violence to collect the money.

Since the scheme began the seven Illegal Money Lending Teams across the country have written off more than £37m worth of illegal debts.