Examination of Witness (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
240. Supposing we were considering a recommendation
that said that an Easterhouse-type project could be part of the
way forward for other communities. With central Government, even
when it is trying to help, sometimes inadvertently the bureaucracy
gets in the way. Are you really saying to me that you would be
confident that a man from a ministry could move into Liverpool
or somewhere and set up an organisation that you would recognise
as useful and like your own?
(Dr Holman) I think it would be very good for the
man from the ministry but I do not think that would work out.
That is not the idea. I think the idea is that the Government
should fund existing community projects.
241. You think that the embryos are all out
(Dr Holman) Yes.
242. In Manchester, in Liverpool?
(Dr Holman) Yes, and in Birmingham.
243. All you have to do is find them and give
them some core funding in a realistic way?
(Dr Holman) Yes, and long term funding.
244. And give them some local discretion?
(Dr Holman) That is right, give them long term funding
and a hardship fund. I think the important word is "involvement".
We must not treat people as little charitable paupers.
245. You were listening to the evidence previously
and I know one of the previous witnesses was talking about credit
unions and she kind of implied that it was not of great help to
her because she could not afford the payments. You have a credit
union in Easterhouse probably.
(Dr Holman) Yes.
246. Do you think there is a place for credit
unions if you have got the hardship fund as well? Could you compare
the hardship fund and the credit union for me and tell me if there
is a different role for the two organisations?
(Dr Holman) We have got a credit union. It has got
over 600 members. It meets on our premises, the North Easterhouse
Credit Union. I would say that nearly all the families who come
to us are not in that credit union. Credit unions are great. There
is a kind of creaming off of the poor from the very poor. If I
look at the people who come in to pay their money into the credit
union, I am one of them, number eight on the list. Many of them
are greys. They are elderly people and couples who are making
use of them. The people who are not making use of them are those
who are already in debt and particularly lone parents because
they cannot save. You were also asking if credit unions could
be a means of help along with the hardship fund.
247. Yes. It is not a top-up. You have to have
some money to put in.
(Dr Holman) That is right. I think credit unions could
be used in that way. Also, credit unions have now got some experience
in assessing need, being able to tell if sometimes people are
telling you the truth. As I have put in here, I have been conned
a couple of times. That kind of local expertise of having lived
in the area all their lives, that is crucial in those cases.
248. You mentioned Crazy George's and that is
presumably a legal operation.
(Dr Holman) Yes. It is a chain of shops.
249. More than one person has told me in the
past that there is a role for such high interest operations because
there are people who get to the stage where they cannot credit
(Dr Holman) That is right.
250. Perhaps because of their record in the
past and so on. They may have enough money to pay back a loan
but they cannot access any of the normal ones. People say to me
that people like Crazy George's and other people, not the illegal
ones, have a role to play. Do you think that is true?
(Dr Holman) You might argue that there is a role for
the illegal loan shark.
251. I am not asking that.
(Dr Holman) I am saying this because he does provide
a loan for a person who could not get a loan anywhere else, although
it comes with strings. In Easterhouse there is no main line bank
so where do people turn for credit? They have got to go to high
interest bodies. Perhaps one of the other things the Committee
might say to banks and to building societies with all this talk
now about business having a social conscience is, "Why is
it that the number of banks and building societies are still being
withdrawn from estates in the inner cities?" They should
be increased if they are to provide a service to low income people.
252. Is it getting better? Over your eight or
ten years that you have been working in your community is it getting
better or is it getting worse?
(Dr Holman) It is a big question. I think that housing-wise
things are definitely getting better in our area, mainly due to
housing co-ops and housing associations. There has been a big
improvement. The biggest thing about housing improvement is that
you get gas central heating, which is an enormous saving in money
compared with electric fires. Unemployment: as you know, one of
New Labour's big successes is the New Deal. A lot more people
are in work, albeit many in temporary work and very low paid work,
whereas I want for our youngsters a career, not working in McDonalds.
I would say in the area as a whole the biggest problem and increasing
problemand this is not newis drugs. In our area
it is heroin. We are not winning the battle. Whatever the tzar
says we are not winning the battle against drugs. I mention it
because if you are on drugs you have to pay for it. We are now
in a situation that, whereas often drug users steal to fund their
habit, we are now reaching a position where some drug users are
borrowing to fund their habit. The loan sharks are now crossing
over into the drug field.
253. Is the success of your project not because
you are community driven; it is from bottom-up rather than top-down?
On the drugs issue, do you know of Gail McCann, who has founded
that very successful community effort called Mothers against Drugs?
(Dr Holman) I do. It is at Cranhill, three miles from
254. Are you able to get assistance, advice
and so onand this is nothing to do with the Social Fundfrom
that organisation about fighting drugs in your area?
(Dr Holman) Yes. What they have done, what we have
not done, is that they are prepared to grass on drug dealers.
Chairman: Again, we have run out of time. It
is always the enemy; we could go on all day. We are very grateful
to you for your evidence, and for your written evidence as well.
Thank you for doing all the work that you do.