A TORY councillor has hit out at his local authority for not encouraging lowly paid and benefit-dependent Borderers to better manage their finances.

Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East) said it was “ridiculous” that Scottish Borders Council was not prepared to promote a prepaid debit card scheme from the Capital Credit Union (CCU).

The council, along with NHS Borders and the Scottish Borders Housing Association, are “sponsoring employers” of the Edinburgh-based CCU which has 19,000 members in the Borders and the Lothians and assets of more than £20million.

As such, staff with these organisations can save with the CCU directly through their salaries.

Earlier this year, the credit union launched CredEplus, a reloadable prepaid card that works like a high street bank debit card.

Wages and benefits of people without bank accounts can be paid directly into the CCU with rent, council tax, social care charges and other montly bills paid by direct debit. The remainder of a client’s cash is then loaded onto the card to pay for goods and cash withdrawals.

As part of a pilot scheme, Perth and Kinross Council has financed the distribution of such budget cards, in association with the area’s main credit union, among social housing clients, social care clients and people at risk of homelessness. Anyone can apply and no credit checks are required.

At the last full council meeting, Councillor Logan said that initiative had been a great success, with an “incredible” uptake. He wanted to know if the council would, if not help finance such a scheme, at least promote the one now offered by the CCU.

In a prepared statement, Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work and housing said: “This council supports initiatives which are designed to help people manage their finances in a sustainable way. However, it would not be appropriate for the council to promote a service offered by any single company.” When pressed again by Mr Logan, who cited the success of the Perth and Kinross scheme, she said: “I am pleased the uptake has been high, but I stress again we don’t think it’s appropriate that we support a single company.” Mr Logan, who last year failed in a bid to have online access to pay day loan companies blocked on computers in council-owned buildings, said later that the council’s stance was “totally ridiculous”.

“Councillor’s Renton answer was both inaccurate – because the council already promotes the Capital Credit Union for its own employees – and completely lacking in empathy and understanding of the needs of the disadvantaged people of the Borders.

“It would cost very little to promote the prepaid debit scheme, whichever financial institution is offering it, via Council Tax bills, housing associations or in the SB Connect quarterly newspaper.

“The refusal to countenance such a course of action is ironic given that, on the same day, the SNP/Lib Dem administration pushed through a series of rewards, including shopping discount cards, for its own staff.

“We also agreed to support the CAB network, which is inundated with cries for help from people struggling with personal debt, for another two years.

“The prepaid debit scheme would be a cheap and easy way to help people who do not have access to bank accounts and keep them away from the clutches of pay day lenders or illegal loan sharks who prey on their despair.

“The administration at Newtown should take a long hard look at itself and its priorities. It is unacceptable that third party business cases for vanity projects like the Great Tapestry of Scotland are funded by tax payers’ money, while worthy schemes such as this – at a fraction of the cost – are ignored and not even considered.”