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Opinion

Payday loans: Church/Bank of England

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has started his incumbency with a bang – or should that be, a bank.

In late July, he announced a crusade against payday lenders such as Wonga that charge exorbitant interest rates to credit-starved borrowers. His plan? To allow mutual credit unions to set up shop in thousands of churches across the UK.

This prompted a classic headline from The Sun newspaper: The lend is nigh.

It was of mild embarrassment to the archbishop when, that very day, it was revealed that the Church of England’s own pension fund had invested in one of the principal financial backers of Wonga.

This isn’t Welby’s first foray into the banking world. He was a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, much to the surprise of many senior UK bankers.

One of the key recommendations of the commission was that there should be more diversity, of women and minorities, on the trading floors of investment banks.

That might have struck some as a bit rich, coming from a church that has struggled to get acceptance of female vicars, let alone bishops, and of gay marriage.

How far will Welby’s crusade on banking go? Well, there are 630 branches of Lloyds Banking Group looking for a new owner, for a start.

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