A cash boost from a wind farm community fund set up in the north-east of Scotland has been hailed by locals struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19.
Moray Firth Credit Union (MFCU), which has 1000 members and serves an area with almost 100,000 people, has been awarded £17,160 towards paying the salaries of two part time staff to focus on the effects of the Coronavirus.
The money will enable it to improve its Covid-19 response and help families who are facing significant financial challenges.
The payment comes from the Berry Burn Community Benefit Fund, which was set up by Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy.
MFCU, formerly Forres Area Credit Union, has been providing a safe saving and loans service since the 90’s though during the pandemic members needed help to access emergency grants, vouchers for food and fuel and information that they were entitled to regarding welfare benefits and business support.
Members of the MFCU, once they have saved, can borrow using their savings as ‘collateral’ and as the loans are paid back at an ’affordable’ rate, members are encouraged to continue to add to their savings.
Councillor Lorna Creswell, chair of the MFCU, said: “We are mainly made up of volunteers and there are 10 of us at present, including Maggie Bell who deals with volunteer support and Jackie Nicol who is responsible for finance and promotion.
“Since the pandemic began we have lost 50% of our team as they shielded and have subsequently resigned.
“However, we now have the Berry Burn funding to pay two staff a small number of hours until September 2021.
“This will enable us to recruit and train new volunteers, examine lending processes and support members that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we first set up the Credit Union in the nineties, the unemployment rate was the second highest in Scotland, and we envisage that the impact of COVID-19 will be even worse.
“That’s why we want to make it clear that we have funds that can’t be used for operational expenses but can be used for loans, so people should come and speak with us to see if we can help.
“We are delighted that the Berry Burn Trust agreed to fund wages until this September, we can’t thank them enough. We also want to thank Statkraft as these community benefit funds are vital.”
In the UK, Statkraft own and develop wind power, hydropower, solar and greener grid projects. The company has Scottish headquarters in Glasgow and a UK head office in London.
Mícheál Ó Broin, senior project manager with Statkraft, said: “At this time of pandemic when the negative economic impact on communities is growing, we can only commend the work of the MFCU and their efforts to help people in the area in dealing with financial challenges.
“Statkraft remains committed to the Scottish Government’s guidance on providing meaningful community benefit funds and hope to be investing further in Moray and Scotland throughout 2021.”