The Money Shop, one of the biggest chains, has grown from 168 stores in the spring of 2006 to 564 in 2013. Photograph: Jonathan Nicholson/Demotix/Corbis
The UK's high streets now have at least one short-term loan shop for every seven banks and building societies, according to research prepared for the Guardian, which shows how high-cost moneylenders have become a common sight in many neighbourhoods.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that Glasgow is the payday loan capital of the UK, with 40 stores operated by the biggest quick-cash shops. On a per capita basis, the London borough of Lewisham has the most stores, with nearly eight high street lending shops for every 100,000 residents.
The data showed that the main lenders now run 1,427 shops in England, Scotland and Wales, and a further 49 in Northern Ireland. Many high streets have also seen smaller chains open for business since the start of the financial crisis, so the figures give a conservative picture of how many are now on the country's high streets.
In contrast to short-term lenders, banks have been shrinking their networks. Barclays recently said it was looking at closing up to 400 branches around the country. A recent report from the University of Nottingham found that there were 10,348 bank or building society branches remaining in 2012.
Paul Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield who has campaigned against payday lending, said: "These shocking figures show the scale of the payday lending epidemic on our high streets. Their corrosive impact is then often exacerbated by the companies clustering their shops in areas of higher deprivation."
Since the financial crisis, the payday lending industry has boomed, with online and high-street stores loaning a total of around £2bn to 1 million borrowers in 2012. Interest rates in excess of 1,000% APR are commonplace, and although loans are designed to be repaid after a matter of days or weeks, borrowers often roll over loans, meaning costs quickly mount up. One debt charity recently helped a client whose £200 debt had grown to £1,851 in just three months .
Most payday lending is done online, with the Competition Commission recently finding that internet lenders, including firms such as Wonga and QuickQuid, were responsible for 80% of loans. The watchdog also found that borrowers using high street firms were significantly more likely than online customers to be social tenants, in part-time work or unemployed, lone parents, unqualified or on low incomes.
The BIJ mapped short-term lenders' branches – the first time this has been done – and the distribution of shops was compared with official government data on deprivation. The research focused on the seven biggest chains of short-term lenders – including the Money Shop, Cash Converters, Cash Generator and the Cheque Centre – and looked only at the branches advertising short-term loans alongside pawnbroking and other services.
The large lenders, many of which are owned by overseas firms, have expanded rapidly in recent years. The Money Shop, part of a US business, has grown from 168 stores in the spring of 2006 to 564 in 2013. Oakham, which is UK-owned and offers loans over three to six months, has gone from one store at its launch in 2007 to 22 today and claims to be opening branches all the time.
While the Money Shop recently opened a store in well-off Muswell Hill in north London, the mapping shows that loan shops are clustered in areas of deprivation. Lewisham is the 16th most deprived of the 326 local authorities in England, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government's rankings.
Halton, a borough on the Mersey estuary to the east of Liverpool, had the third highest number of stores for each resident in the Bureau's research, with just over seven stores for every 100,000 residents. The borough is the 32nd most deprived local authority in England. Nearby Liverpool, ranked the
fifth most deprived local authority in England, came 12th in the ranking of stores per 100,000 residents. In total the city council has 26 short-term loan shops.
The 40 stores in the city of Glasgow are supplemented by more in nearby West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde, which also featured in the Bureau's top 10 for the number of stores per head of population. A recent economic profile by West Dunbartonshire council stated that 26% of children in the local authority were growing up in poverty and that one in four residents derived some or all of their income from welfare support, compared to a UK average of nearly one in seven.
In contrast, wealthy neighbourhoods such as Richmond, Kensington and Windsor have fewer than one loan shop per 100,000 residents.
Rules restricting the number of times a borrower can roll over a loan are set to come into force in July, and the sector's new regulator has been told to introduce a cap on charges by the end of the year. However, campaigners suggest the changes do not go far enough to protect vulnerable consumers.
Blomfield said action was needed to allow neighbourhoods to refuse new shops. "Councils need new planning powers to be able to restrict the number of shops in their area, and this would allow local residents to have their say on what shops can and can't open up," he said.
The Consumer Finance Association, the trade body for a number of lenders including Cash Converters, Cheque Centre and the Money Shop, denied that lenders were targeting poorer parts of the country. Its chief executive, Russell Hamblin-Boone, said: "It is inaccurate to draw such conclusions. Our members' stores can be found in population centres across the UK, in convenient locations where a broad cross-section of customers live, work and shop. There are many factors for lenders to consider when choosing store locations, including the costs of rates and rent, the local recruitment pool, prominence on the high street and competition from other stores.
The UK's payday loan capital; its 40 short-term loan shops work out at nearly seven outlets for every 100,000 people. There are more on the edge of the city within other council areas. In September, Glasgow was dubbed the "jobless capital of the UK" by the Scotsman newspaper, after the Office for National Statistics said 30% of households had no one aged between 16 and 64 in employment during 2012; across the UK the figure was 18%. Last year, the average wage in the city was £20,799, below the Scottish average of £21,608.
The south London borough has 21 outlets of the main short-term lenders on its streets – or nearly eight for every 100,000 residents. The area is the 16th most deprived in England, and the median wage is £27,521, lower than the figure for inner London as a whole.
Lewisham was hit hard by the recession, with the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance increasing from 5,746 in July 2008 to 9,283 in November 2010 – or 5% of its working-age population. That compares with 3.9% across London and 3.5% for the UK as a whole.
In 2012, the council's local economic assessment said: "Lewisham is a good place to live, even though there is much deprivation and poor-quality housing."
The major short-term lenders have nine branches in Halton, north-west England, or 7.2 shops for every 100,000 people living in the borough, which includes the towns of Widnes and Runcorn.
In January, the unemployment rate in the borough was 4.1%, with 3,292 people claiming jobseeker's allowance – putting it 34th out of England's 326 local authorities. Some 9% of 16- to 18-year-olds were not in education, employment or training, and it is the 32nd most-deprived English borough. However, the average salary in Halton, at £21,293, is higher than the £21,293 level for the north-west as a whole.
Category: Payday loans