Steve Harwood

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger. All views are my own (well, some were originally my mother's...) 

Grass Roots Activists Force the Government to Act

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post 

"You've got to cap the overall cost of credit." Of all the people I thought would say those words – and many people have been saying exactly that, for a long time – I was surprised to hear them from George Osborne. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been.   For a start, I should be used to surprises. If anyone should be expecting the unexpected, it’s me. A few years ago I was trapped in the payday loan cycle, resolutely private about it and entirely at a loss as to what to do. Back then, I never expected I would be telling my story in a national paper, or discussing regulation with Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband. It’s amazing what well organised anger can achieve.   I finally got over my shame when I started to feel anger about my situation. And, working with Movement For Change, I was able to put that anger into action. I told my story. I found people that agreed with me, people who felt the same way I did, and people who were in the same position as I was. All of our experience showed how badly a cap on the cost of credit was needed, and what such a change could mean. So we put a case together. It’s another reason that I shouldn’t be surprised by the Chancellors comments – it was a strong case, and he was right to be convinced.   The battle isn’t won, of course. A cap on the cost of credit is just one of many changes that need to be made, and we have yet to hear what that cap will be or how it will be set. But for those of us who’ve been making these arguments for months, and for those of us who’ve laid awake at night worrying about debt, today is a monumental day. It a step closer to fair, well regulated credit, and it’s a sign that community organising can make a real difference. It is a day to celebrate our success so far, and motivation to keep working on everything we have left to do.   It’s an ambitious project. We still have to tackle irresponsible advertising, shady collection methods, inadequate credit checks and a lack of alternative lenders, and, people believe it’s not possible. But we have strong evidence, logical arguments and passionate activists – and we might just surprise them. 

"You've got to cap the overall cost of credit." Of all the people I thought would say those words – and many people have been saying exactly that, for a long time – I was surprised to hear them from George Osborne. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

 

For a start, I should be used to surprises. If anyone should be expecting the unexpected, it’s me. A few years ago I was trapped in the payday loan cycle, resolutely private about it and entirely at a loss as to what to do. Back then, I never expected I would be telling my story in a national paper, or discussing regulation with Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband. It’s amazing what well organised anger can achieve.

 

I finally got over my shame when I started to feel anger about my situation. And, working with Movement For Change, I was able to put that anger into action. I told my story. I found people that agreed with me, people who felt the same way I did, and people who were in the same position as I was. All of our experience showed how badly a cap on the cost of credit was needed, and what such a change could mean. So we put a case together. It’s another reason that I shouldn’t be surprised by the Chancellors comments – it was a strong case, and he was right to be convinced.

 

The battle isn’t won, of course. A cap on the cost of credit is just one of many changes that need to be made, and we have yet to hear what that cap will be or how it will be set. But for those of us who’ve been making these arguments for months, and for those of us who’ve laid awake at night worrying about debt, today is a monumental day. It a step closer to fair, well regulated credit, and it’s a sign that community organising can make a real difference. It is a day to celebrate our success so far, and motivation to keep working on everything we have left to do.

 

It’s an ambitious project. We still have to tackle irresponsible advertising, shady collection methods, inadequate credit checks and a lack of alternative lenders, and, people believe it’s not possible. But we have strong evidence, logical arguments and passionate activists – and we might just surprise them. 


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