Rotherham borough council has blocked access to the websites of payday lenders on all computers owned by the authority.
Library users, as well as the council’s own staff, will instead be re-directed to a holding page which will offer debt advice and links to the sites of local credit unions.
Councillor Mahroof Hussain, cabinet member for communities and cohesion said: “I’ve been campaigning against payday loan companies for several years and I’m acutely aware of the impact they are having. A short-term loan can become a long-term debt.
“We shouldn’t be allowing our computers to be used to generate profits for these companies.”
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association which represents some of the largest payday lenders said: “Rotherham council is clearly entitled to take any action it deems necessary and we would support any initiatives that drive out irresponsible lenders.
“However, we would be concerned that, without evidence of its impact, this action prevented people in Rotherham having access to responsible credit providers.”
The council has also provided the town’s credit unions with £25,000 to help with their additional caseload over Christmas and into the new year.
LASER credit union lend to its customers every 16 weeks, including just before Christmas. This encourages people to save regularly throughout the year so that they can take out a loan, capped at a maximum of 2% interest per month.
Liz Thompson, Business Manager at LASER said: “People don’t get any more benefits or wages just because it’s Christmas. But obviously there is an extra drain on their finances to afford the things that their children might want.
“It’s also about making sure that when it comes to January they can pay their rent or council tax and all those other bills that are still due even though they’re trying to afford Christmas at the same time.”
Cllr Hussain will also chair the welfare reform steering group to look at further action to take to limit the reach of payday lenders, including where they can advertise. This will report to cabinet by April next year.
But he wants to go even further.
“I want to work with the fire service, police, hospitals, voluntary sector and even the football club to create socially responsible action in Rotherham.
“When you turn on the telly, payday loan company adverts are coming on all the time. You don’t get adverts for credit unions or see them on the front of a football shirt.”
“It’s also about preparing for the future. We can’t have a society that relies on short-term money to fix long-term debt.
“Payday loan companies are using all possible mediums and we need to stop them.”