Five Wolverhampton suburbs have declared a five per cent dividend after saving nearly #500,000 through their credit union.

Residents of Low Hill, Bushbury, Scotlands, Park Village and Fordhouses launched their own bank ten years ago when illness, redundancy and other problems stopped them getting credit from banks.

Named the New Friends Credit Union, it has seven collection points run by volunteers and has so far saved in excess of #470,000. It currently has over 1,000 savers who pay in amounts between 50p and #5. Chairman Tony Blakeway said: "We have some exceptional volunteers who have shown tremendous teamwork over the years to reach this milestone.

"We have some bad debts which account for less than five per cent of the member-ship but everyone knows that we all have a responsibility to each other and it makes early recovery essential."

Ken Purchase, MP for Wolverhampton North East, praised the scheme and its volunteers. He said: "It must be one of the best examples in the country of how a credit union should be run."