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Ice cream van man had 99 problems but the cash ain’t one after £3,000 loan

Credit union money gave dad-of-five ‘second chance’ to achieve his business dream. Now his story is being told on the BBC

When mainstream banks do not fit the bill, many Brits are forced to turn to loan sharks and payday lenders for quick cash.

But alternatives do exist and ethical lenders like credit unions offer money at a lower interest rate, ensuring that people are not sent spiralling into debt in their time of need.

In BBC documentary A Matter of Life and Debt, which airs this week, Roger Richards’ dream plans for a fresh take on the traditional ice cream van looked like they would have to be put on ice before he received a £3,000 credit union loan.

Unlike the mainstream banks which have their pretty pictures on the TV, credit unions are accessible to everybody

The father-of-five, from Catford, had to work two jobs – as a compliance officer at Islington Council and a safety officer on the railways – to save up £11,000 to kit out a clapped-out van he bought in 2015.

Ice Unit 2 is Roger's second attempt at getting his ice cream venture off the ground

The 47-year-old transformed the motor into Ice Unit 2 – a black-coloured ice cream van with a TV screen on top to make it a quasi-outdoor cinema – with the help of his children who wrote and sang his own custom jingle.

But his business ground to a halt when he was left with a £3,000 bill for an exhaust that would enable the van to be passed as road legal.

Credit union London Capital stepped in with the cash to allow Roger to hit the road.

The reception since then has been anything but cool and his ice cream van business is now hot property, having been booked for weddings and red-carpet events.

Roger said: “Unlike the mainstream banks which have their pretty pictures on the TV, credit unions are accessible to everybody. They give people a second chance and they look at individual cases.

Other types of lenders can be long-winded and there is a lot of jargon to get your head around, the interest rates can be extortionate. If I lost my job then the risk would be much higher and I would find myself in much more trouble.

Roger has been doing a roaring trade since being granted his loan

“Without that £3,000 loan, I wouldn’t like to say that I would never have got to the point where I am now but I wouldn’t be where I am so quickly.

“A lot of people wreck their credit rating when they are younger, like me, and credit unions give them a second chance to realise their dreams.”

Martin Groombridge, London Capital CEO, said: “It is not unusual for us to do loans for business purposes, people often think that it just about people on very low incomes and pay day lenders but we do loans for small and large values for all purposes.

“It is not just about us doing things for people, everyone has started saving when they have taken out a loan with us and that means those savings are available for the next person that comes to the credit union so they don’t have to resort to a loan shark or the high interest rates that are charged by conventional banks.”

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