COMPUTERS in libraries and council buildings seem certain to be blocked from accessing so-called ‘payday loan’ websites.
Some councillors want Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) to introduce the block and prevent council workers and the public accessing the sites.
Cllr Adrian Walmsley, who represents Newton, and Cllr Neil Sullivan, who represents Handbridge Park, called for the block during the full council meeting on July 18.
Cllr Walmsley argued: “The council should be able to protect people – especially the most vulnerable within our community – from loans from such companies which often lead to them being trapped in a spiral of debt.”
He said the block should be put in place as soon as possible and remain in place until the industry was effectively controlled.
But other councillors said the block would create a ‘nanny state’ and limit personal choice.
Corporate scrutiny committee members were asked to investigate the issues and have now recommended the block should be introduced.
Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton, chairman of the corporate scrutiny committee, wants the council to follow the lead of other authorities such as Dundee City Council.
Her report recommends blocking access to ‘payday loan’ sites through public computers in libraries and other council buildings as well as through council workers’ computers.
“This action should be taken to enable the council to protect people from taking out high interest loans from companies that fail to check that they can repay the loan, often leading to them becoming trapped in a spiral of increasing debt,” she states.
Corporate scrutiny committee members have cited an Office of Fair Trading report published in March which was critical of the industry and lending practices.
Cllr Moore Dutton said: “We discussed the the argument that prohibiting access to ‘payday loan’ sites would be an infringement on people’s freedom of choice and deny them the chance to find short-term, flexible credit.
“On balance, members agreed the council has a duty to protect its vulnerable adults, as many of those in financial difficulty would be accessing payday loan sites, and make sure people were aware that there was an alternative to ‘payday loans’.”
Committee members accepted that there was the risk people could seek loans from high street ‘payday loan’ shops or illegal money lenders but have asked that anyone attempting to access ‘payday loan’ websites be automatically redirected to an advice page on credit unions.
Executive members will consider the recommendation next week.