THE Benarty and Lochgelly Credit Union is going from strength to strength, the annual general meeting of the organisation heard.

The community credit union was the first of its type in Fife and it has continued to grow with tremendous public support loaning millions of pounds to residents in the area.

Treasurer Donna McEwan reported to the meeting, held in the new community centre, that the membership had increased to 1877, which included 180 pupils from Benarty and St Kenneth's Primary Schools, who contribute weekly and the organisation presently had two part-time paid staff in Elaine Green and Dean Mackie.

She added, "Share holdings as of December 2012 stand at �787,991 and loans stand at �684,958 and our membership represents all sections of the community, businesses, professional workers, self employed, waged and salaried, as well as OAPs and people on benefits, alongside children at school plus youngsters whose parents and grandparents have enrolled them, some from birth." Donna went on to explain that the idea behind the credit union was to get people to save and borrow in a responsible manner. At present the borrowing rate was one per cent a month or an APR of 12.88 per cent which would mean that a loan of �1000 over a year would have interest of �67 or less than �1.30 per week spread over the year. "Judge these rates against those being charged by various financial organisations and see who is giving the best deal," she added.

"Any loan is insured at no direct cost to the member and all savings are covered by the Financial Services Authority and the Government, similar to people who have bank accounts so savings are secure.

"The only surplus money to pay dividends annually comes from members' interest on loans taken out." With this in mind and to encourage members to take out loans a 20 per cent rebate on interest paid alongside a two per cent dividend on shares was proposed at the meeting and unanimously agreed.

It was also pointed out that during the year donations had been made to several community organisations such as Lochgelly Gala and the Lochgelly Christmas Lights Fund, Benarty Festive Lights and Benarty Gala and also advertising placed at Lochore Welfare and Benarty Amateurs' football grounds. And during the past year members had enjoyed a currency exchange service for holidays.

It was also underlined that several new challenges were on the horizon for the coming 12 months such as a bigger presence in Lochgelly; and an increase in membership and also in volunteer helpers plus a collection point at Lochgelly High School. The board of directors elected was a follows, chairman, Councillor Willie Clarke; secretary Linda Law; treasurer Donna McEwan; assistant treasurer Morag Swan; and also Margaret King, Helen Hamilton, Sharon Mackie, Helen Ross and Christine McGrath.

Mr Clarke paid tribute to two retiring board members, Jean Adams and Mary Brogan, who had retired during the year, for their dedication and commitment over many years.

He also thanked the board members and two volunteers Janet Blackwood and Shila McLaughlan for their contribution.

The Credit Union has its own base in Benarty Square, Ballingry, which is open on Mondays from 9.15am to 1.45pm; Tuesdays 9.45am to 1.45pm; Wednesdays, 10.30am to 2.45pm; Thursdays 6.30pm to 8.30pm and Fridays 5pm to 6.30pm while the Lochgelly office is open on a Monday from 9.15am to 1.45pm.