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Your Choice Winners announced

Six community projects in Ipswich will benefit from cash confiscated by convicted loan sharks, it was announced today.

The Ipswich “Your Choice” competition aims to help local groups alerting people about loan sharks and promoting safe lending and borrowing schemes.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team put forward £4,000 worth of proceeds of criminals’ money and Suffolk County Council Trading Standards added £2,000 and Sanctuary Housing pledged an additional £1,000 to reward the winning projects.

Ipswich Borough Council has been supporting the Stop Loan Shark campaign at public events all summer and took the lead to promote the competition.

As part of the Borough Council’s Money Safety Week next week, the Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor Bill Quinton, will host a reception for the winners at the Town Hall on Wednesday 24th September at 2pm.

More than 600 votes were cast in person at the Big Multicultural Festival at Alexandra Park on 31st August and online. The following projects came top of the voting and will receive up to £1,000.

* PHEOBE will run four money saving/loan sharks prevention workshops in Ipswich for women from migrant communities.

* Eastern Savings and Loans Credit Union will work with young people to make a short film promoting credit unions and loan shark awareness.

* Eastern Savings and Loans Credit Union have a second project to help promote the credit union through the purchase of banners and promotional items explaining its services.

* Circle Housing Wherry will deliver six Money Matters workshops to 30 young people living in supported housing.

* EMMAUS will create a leaflet and social media campaign promoting its new workshop and shop near Ipswich town centre. The shop will trade in up-cycled donated furniture.

* Ipswich Jobcentreplus will promote the Stop Loan Sharks message and the benefits of local credit unions via “save for a rainy day” themed promotional events taking place within Ipswich Jobcentre Plus and the town centre. Jobcentreplus will signpost claimants to the credit union and help from the Illegal Money Lending Team.

The Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor Bill Quinton, said: “Ipswich Borough Council recognises the threat that loan sharks pose to the local community and continues to support counter initiatives that raise awareness of the risks of dealing with illegal moneylenders. This competition will help allow local groups to work with the community to reduce risk and improve money skills, and put illegally gainedmoney back into the community in a positive way. We would encourage anyone with information about loan sharks operating in Ipswich to call the hotline.”

Councillor Andrew Reid, deputy cabinet member for public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act is a piece of legislation which helps tackle criminals by hitting them where it hurts – by taking away not only their money, but also items such as their car or even their house. I am pleased that community groups are able to bid for this money and that the funds are going to where it is needed, with residents deciding what they would like the money to be used for. The money has been taken in an unscrupulous manner from members of those same communities. There is no place for illegal money lenders in Ipswich, they blight our communities and often leave their victims living in fear with nothing to get by on.”

The England Illegal Money Lending Team has so far prosecuted more than 310 illegal money lenders across the country. Many of these criminals have extorted cash from communities, leaving their victims with little or nothing to get by on and often living in fear.

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities, making life a misery for their victims. Through schemes such as ‘Your Choice’ we are able to use this money for something positive and help to prevent these criminals from operating in the future. We would welcome anyone to attend to have their say in how this money can be put to good use. We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222.”

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