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London Citizens, a charitable organisation which marched against usury in the City of London this summer, gathered at the Barbican Centre on 25th November, calling for a cap on interest rates and the extension of the living wage. Barbara Panvel reports.

The group are seeking cross-party political support for a more responsible, open and fair financial system, including new laws on ‘usury’ - using the modern interpretation of this term, the charging of high or unreasonable interest rates - to cap the cost of borrowing for the poorest.

An earlier meeting on November 4th organised by London Citizens, to respond to calls for commitments in five main areas, was attended by Boris Johnson, representatives of the three main political parties and people working in the financial services industry.

The mayor’s office said he backed a number of the London Citizens initiatives, including the living wage – an augmented version of the minimum wage – and that proposals looking at restrictions on debt should take into account recent proposals on limiting interest rates on store cards.

London Citizens, an offspring of the Citizens’ Organising Foundation, is funded by donations from a number of funds, including Barrow-Cadbury. Its members include churches, mosques, synagogues, charities, trade union branches and ethnic associations.

Though in London, as in Birmingham, there are credit union co-operatives which offer loans on reasonable terms and serve ordinary needs many people with multiple debts have been “forced into the hands of legal loan sharks in order to gain access to credit,” according to a London Citizens trustee.

Some hackles have been raised by these proposals, the first casualty being Rabbi Natan Asmoucha, who recently left Bevis Marks synagogue after facing disciplinary action for allowing the march to start from the synagogue. He continues to assert that tackling usury is “the right thing to do”.

As the Stirrer’s webmaster says, quoting George Orwell: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act"



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