Proceeds of crime money, which is retrieved from convicted loan sharks, is up for grabs for local groups working in the Somerset region.
The England Illegal Money Lending team, who investigate and prosecute loan sharks, are working in partnership with Somerset County Council on a joint initiative where local groups can partake and bid for proceeds of crime money.
The ‘Your Choice’ scheme, which allows residents to have their say on how loan sharks money is spent, will help improve the local community.
The scheme will aim to use loan sharks money wisely, by putting it back in to the community and supporting local societies in the area.
Local charities, community and voluntary groups, schools and statutory agencies are all welcome to bid for the money that is available.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team commented:
“It is fundamental that schemes like ‘Your Choice’ take place, illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities and can have a huge detrimental impact on the lives on victims living in the area.
“We aim to put their unlawful earnings back in to the community that they once targeted.
“This money will help fund something positive and we encourage all local groups to participate and bid whilst they can. We would also urge victims of illegal money lenders to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222.”
Loan sharks repeatedly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt, with the astronomical rates of interest that they charge on their prohibited loans.
As a method of repayment, some will resort to bully tactics such as intimidation, threats and sometimes violence.
Local groups who are interested in bidding must create a project with the money, which will help raise awareness of loans sharks and aims to do at least one of the following:
1. Promote legal, affordable credit options that will prevent people from using loan sharks (E.G. Encouraging new credit union accounts)
2. Prevent wider crime and disorder whilst promoting the Stop Loan Sharks memo.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said:
“Thanks to this local government – run service, this is a great chance to use the Proceeds of Crime legislation for what it was meant to do, to help the very communities the criminals targeted in the first place.
“If you or your group has a good cause, we would encourage you to apply.”
The maximum amount of money which groups can apply for is £1,250 per project. Groups can submit more than one project idea.
The community will then vote online and in person on how they would like the money to be spent.
Applicants have until the Wednesday 31 August 2016 to place their bids, with the winning projects announced towards the end of September.
For an application form, please contact the Illegal Money Lending Team’s LIAISE Manager, Catherine Wohlers on firstname.lastname@example.org
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject