Somerset ‘Your Choice’ Winners Announced

Cash confiscated from convicted loan sharks has been awarded to GoCreate Taunton and North Taunton Partnership to help fund their community projects, which will assist in raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, in partnership with the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards service, launched the ‘Your Choice’ initiative, to give residents a say in how money – from the proceeds of crime, taken from convicted loan sharks – is spent within the local community.

GoCreate Taunton has been awarded £1,250 to fund their startling Christmas tree proposal.

The group’s inventive idea involves designing a Christmas tree display, consisting of multiple hand-painted stars containing anti-violence messages.

Jenny Keogh, CEO of GoCreate Taunton CIC comments:

“We were over the moon to discover that our proposal for creative ways of fighting loan sharks had been successful. We can’t wait to start working with youth groups, the YMCA, the local credit union and partner charity, Stand Against Violence.”

Linking up with Moorvale Credit Union and Citizens Advice, The North Taunton Partnership has been awarded £505 to fund their awareness raising project, which will run between October 2016 and February 2017.

Within this period, the team will run numerous activities for children and local residents, which will aim to highlight the issues surrounding loan sharks.

Mrs Lesley Thomas, Manager of North Taunton Partnership comments:

“North Taunton Partnership runs the community centre, which is a valuable resort for local people offering support and guidance. It is fantastic news that we’ve received the grant from the IMLT. This highlights the importance of raising awareness of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks.”

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader with joint responsibility for the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service comments:

“It’s appropriate that money taken from members of the community through illegal money lending is now being used to benefit the community.

“The Somerset Your Choice scheme is a fine example of Proceeds of Crime Act being used for what it was meant, to help the very communities the criminals targeted in the first place.”

Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the England Illegal Money Lending Team adds:

“Through this scheme the cash extorted by loan sharks is being put to excellent use. Thanks to everyone who voted or entered a bid- you have contributed to making a difference and tackling this crime in your community.

“Loan sharks are a scourge on society and cause harm and misery to their victims, but we are continuing to tackle them across the country. We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222.”

To report a loan shark:

To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail nationaltradingstandards@grayling.com.

The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.

The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.

The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The National Trading Standards Board has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 347 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 227 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £63.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 25,500 victims.

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders