A THRIVING credit union has announced plans to expand after seeing its membership soar to almost 4,000 from 600 four years ago.

Darlington Credit Union is a not-for-profit organisation offering financial advice to vulnerable people, as well as affordable loans and savings accounts.

Since its launch four years ago, membership has reached almost 4,000, with a monthly growth of 100 members.

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The organisation was presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service last year, and as a result of its success, has announced plans to offer help to residents living in the YO and HG postcode areas.

At the organisation’s general meeting, chairman Alan Coultas said: “2013 was a hugely significant year for Darlington Credit Union – all our targets were exceeded by some distance.

“Tony Brockley has provided visionary leadership for this credit union. We are grateful for everything he and his staff have achieved.

“This is a time of great opportunity for credit unions with a growing demand and a sizeable market for banking, savings and loan services from trusted providers.”

Last year, the credit union had its profile boosted by high-profile campaigners, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who urged people to turn their back on extortionate rates of interest provided by payday loans companies, such as Wonga, in favour of credit unions.

Marjory Knowles, chair of the organisation’s loan committee, said the credit union will always offer help to those in financial need and victims of payday loans and loan sharks.

She said that over the last year, more than 1,000 loan applications were made to the union, with the majority being made over Christmas time.

Nearly 250 applications totaling £129,000 were approved for house improvements, as well as car repairs, holidays and consolidation of debt.

A further 23 applications totaling £25,300 were also approved for wedding costs, 24 applications worth £21,000 for study and educational assistance and 110 loans worth £20,000 were approved for living expense problems, such as payday loans.

The organisation is also one of 82 taking part in a national £38m project to expand and grow the credit union industry to offer help to people on low incomes.

A number of collections points are available to members across Darlington, and two new points have been opened in the new customer service centre at the town hall.

For more information visit darlingtoncreditunion.co.uk or call 01325-520005.