The United Savings and Loans credit union launched in Bracknell yesterday (Wednes- day). It is promising to make it easier for people to take out loans – although the interest rate is 42.6% APR (annual percentage rate) for borrowing between £100 and £1,999.

However, Andy Jackson, director of social justice at Bracknell’s Kerith Community Church – which works in partnership with charity Christians Against Poverty to give debt and money advice to residents – supports the move.

He said: “We support the credit union particularly as an alternative to the pay day loan companies and doorstep lenders. “Although the interest rates are higher than the banks, people who have been in financial difficulty are not going to meet their lending criteria and at the moment are forced to head to those other companies.

“In terms of what we see through the debt and money advice we offer, we would still rather that we moved away from our dependence on credit and had more of a savings culture but we know the reality is that we all come to points in our life when we have to borrow. “The other good thing about credit unions is the type of accounts they run which can be a great help in terms of people handling their money well and in encouraging saving.” The credit union has been brought to Bracknell thanks to a partnership between the borough council and Bracknell Forest Homes.

Mike Morrissey, from the housing association, highlighted the sky-high rates some other lenders ask for in contrast to the new credit union.

People borrowing £500 would pay 42.6% APR with United Savings and Loans, compared with 281.5% APR with Loansathome4U. Wonga charges up to 5,853% APR on some of its loans.

The union will also set up so-called 'jam jar accounts’ for members, whereby members pay money into one account, divided into different sections, such as rent, food and energy bills.

It is helpful for monthly budgeting, with bills paid to the relevant organisations owed money and any remaining money paid into a separate account. The cost of having a jam jar account is £5 a month.

Residents can visit the credit union service on the following days: l Bracknell Forest Homes (Berkshire Court) on Mondays from 9.30am-1.30pm (for jam jar accounts and inquiries only) l Bracknell Town Council (Brooke House, High Street opposite Bentalls) on Wednes-days, from 9.30am-1.30pm l Other venues including children’s centres regularly. Call 01344 382833 for details.

The credit union rates are: £100-£1,999 – 42.6% APR) £2,000-£2,499 – 38.5% APR) £2,500 - £2,999 – 34.5% APR) £3,000 - £4,999 – 26.8% APR) £5,000- £7,499 – 11.9% APR) £7,500-£9,999 – 11.4% APR) £10,000-£12,499 – 10.9% APR) £12,500-£14,999 – 10.4% APR) £15,000 – 9.9% APR).