THE Friday before last, I was honoured to have been able to say a few words at the launch of the Aylesbury Vale Community Bank, which is a branch of the Swan Credit Union. I have long been a supporter of the Swan Credit Union, and the addition of an Aylesbury branch is great news for the area, offering local residents more choice and support for people, especially those on low incomes, to save and borrow money.

The Community Bank is different from your common garden variety, in that it is a not-for-profit enterprise that is owned and run by its members. Any person who lives or works in the area can join, and start saving or take out loans at affordable rates, which is vital for many people, perhaps especially during these tough economic times. For those struggling to make ends meet, the Credit Union provides an affordable and ethical alternative to loan sharks, door step lenders and payday loan companies.

Furthermore, as the Member of Parliament for the Buckingham constituency, I am approached by many people with complex financial problems. I try to advise as best I can, and write letters on their behalf to a wide array of services, but it is reassuring to know that there are Community Banks out there who can offer practical financial assistance. The Citizens Advice Bureau do great work in this area too, but the drop-in centre that the Aylesbury Community Bank has announced will provide excellent assistance to those wanting to learn how better to manage their finances.

It a thoroughly heartening experience to be involved in the launch, and I will give every assistance, should their members request it, to ensure that the Swan Credit Union and the Bank continue to thrive as valued community-run organisations for the benefit of our local area.