After excellent back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Spurs it seems almost churlish to bewonga_ad critical of the club, but many problems do remain. Whilst Remy has been an excellent acquisition ans some Spurs fans seem to be doubting their high-profile, high cost signings in the wake of Gareth Bale’s transfer, the Newcastle squad is still painfully thin. Our good season two years ago was partly due to a considerable amount of luck on the injuries front; we need the same luck this season if we are to continue to be a top half team – which surely should be just the bare minimum for a club of our size.

Perhaps some more money will be spent in January to consolidate our decent start to the season. Perhaps some it will come from our sponsorship deal. But then that is still an issue clouded with considerable controversy. This came to my mind again this week, as representatives of Wonga and other ‘payday loan companies’ were called to the House of Commons to appear before the Commons business, innovation and skills select committee on 6th November.

Ahead of this appearance Wonga in particular went onto the offensive. They produced a video showing what they claimed to be a representation of the ‘silent majority’ of their clients. It was also reported that Wonga chief operating officer Niall Wass told Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and other critics of Wonga to, “go use the service, see if you think it is fair and transparent. Take out £30 for 10 days, pay it back after a week and then judge us by our customers.”

To me that is the whole crux of the issue. If Archbishop Welby was to do just what Wass suggested then I am sure he would be able to pay the borrowed money back, without any problems and all would seem well. Justin Welby could no doubt afford to do it. But what of other customers?

If you feel the need to go to a company such as Wonga then clearly you are already in considerable financial difficulty. You are not going to approach Wonga, with an APR interest rate of over 5 000% if you can get a credit card from a bank with an APR of under 10%.  Surely you are only going to turn to a company like Wonga in desperation. If that is the case then how can you be sure that you could pay the money back in the time that you would like to? How many of Wonga’s clients find that they can’t do that and end up in a spiral of ever greater debt? At the end of the day aren’t Wonga still just preying on the more vulnerable members of society and making an unfair if not illegal profit from them?

As I have pointed out on numerous occasions in previous blogs, poverty is real problem across the U.K. and we live in the poorest of all the regions in the country. Save the Children Fund are operating in Britain for the first time in my memory, there are hundreds of food banks across the country and 1 in 5 of the population of Britian live below the poverty line. For anybody in that position to turn to Wonga in a crisis can mean the road to real financial ruin as they desperately take out a loan they find it hard to repay. There are those who would retort that they shouldn’t take out the loan in the first place, but unless they have been through a similar crisis themselves and experienced how one’s judgement can be impaired by the sheer intensity of worry and fear, then perhaps they are too quick to judge others.

The answer has to be the credit union movement. Developing community-based credit unions should be a priority in the fightback against poverty. Giving people the skills and the confidence to help themselves out of poverty is the best way to help them and develop a stronger local economy at the same time as more disposable income can be available to go to local businesses. All major cities across the country should have Credit Unions, which people can turn to when they need that bit of help in a crisis or with Christmas coming up and which can lend them money, which they can easily repay.

Whatever their videos suggest and whatever their chief executives say, companies such as Wonga exist for one reason and one reason only; to make a big fat profit out of the poverty and misery of others. We need to build a society where this kind of behaviour is seen as so indecent and distasteful that it stops occurring.

Wouldn’t it be better to see Newcastle United sponsored by a local credit union or coalition of credit unions? Now of course there might not be as much money to spend on the team, but then how much of the Wonga money has been spent so far anyway?

© Peter Sagar November 2013