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Credit union blames loan collapse for decision to sell branches 


Sean Staunton, chief executive of Progressive Credit Union.

Sean Staunton, chief executive of Progressive Credit Union.

Sean Staunton, chief executive of Progressive Credit Union.

A LEADING credit union said a sharp fall in lending due to Covid-19 restrictions is one of the main reasons it is being forced to close two branches and sell the valuable properties located in them.

North County Dublin’s Progressive Credit Union, which has total assets of €221m, said it needs to bring its cost base into line with a lower level of income.

This has prompted it to close its branches and put the buildings up for sale in fast-growing Donabate and in the wealthy Dublin suburb of Clontarf.

The decision to close the Donabate premises and sell it has generated cross-party anger in the area, which is set to triple in size to a population of 20,000 in the next few years.

Asked why it was closing the branches, chief executive of Progressive Sean Staunton said: “The closure decisions were made to address the challenges which Progressive Credit Union faces in bringing its cost base into line with current income sources, mainly loan interest, which has been dramatically impacted by Covid-19 and are likely to remain low for an extended period.”

The Donabate premises is in a prime location on large site, while the Clontarf premises is in area renowned for high property prices.

The credit union confirmed that the two premises would be sold, rather than handed back to the communities that built them.

Progressive was formed from the merger of credit unions in Balbriggan, Skerries, Clontarf, Donabate, Swords and Baldoyle, among others.

It has 60,000 members and took over some of the operations of Rush and Lusk, which was forcibly wound up by the High Court.

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The credit union said that once operations cease in the two branches, the buildings have to be classified as investment properties that it is not permitted to hold under the Credit Union Act 1997.

“Therefore, the buildings must be sold.”

It said any gains from the sale of the buildings will be re-invested in Progressive Credit Union.

“Any funds received from any sale will be reinvested to prevent further financial challenges that we might face as the local economy recovers from the pandemic.”

The credit union has reported that its surplus fell by 26pc to €825,000 for the year up to last September, when compared with the previous year.

It has imposed a €15,000 limit on member savings.

The branches will be closed on July 1.

The Clontarf branch had been opened one day a week, while the Donabate branch was open three days a week, but given the decreasing number of members who use the two branches, the cost of staffing and maintaining the branches has become unjustifiable, the credit union insisted.

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