CONTROVERSIAL loan company Cheque Centre is to shed jobs at its city headquarters – despite a lucrative cut-price rental deal with the council.
The firm, which employs 180 people at the Ratho offices and another 50 at shops in and around the Capital, said it was currently in “consultation” with staff about redundancies.
But a spokesman insisted there were no plans to close or move the headquarters.
The company said the move was part of a “restructuring” of its operations following the decision to withdraw from payday lending. It will still provide foreign currency exchange and worldwide money transfers.
Jobs could also go at some of Cheque Centre’s 13 stores in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
The spokesman said he could not give details of how many posts would be cut or where the axe would fall until discussions with the staff forum were concluded.
The Evening News revealed earlier this year that the city was effectively subsidising Cheque Centre with £700,000 of council taxpayers’ money by giving it half-rent at the council-owned premises in Ratho Park and contributing £160,000 towards fit-out costs.
The deal was branded hypocritical given the council’s public opposition to payday lenders because of the massive interest rates they charge to some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
Today Tory councillor Jason Rust said any loss of employment was a matter of concern not only for the workforce but the wider jobs market. But he added: “In view of the arrangement the council has with the company, it is a real worry what position the council will find itself in if there is a reduction in the space they need or if the operation ceases altogether.
“We will have to await any announcement from Cheque Centre, but this calls into question the council policy of providing subsidised accommodation and equipment costs.
“Given the recent history of the council’s doublespeak on the issue of payday loans, the whole situation doesn’t look as if it’s going to have a very good outcome.”
A spokesman for Cheque Centre said: “Following our withdrawal from the short-term lending market we have had to look at how we restructure our business model.
“This will result in a reduction in the number of locations that we operate from, and so we have entered into collective consultation with our employees about what that will mean in terms of redundancies.
“There continue to be discussions amongst the management about the final shape of the business.”
But he said there were “no plans” to leave the Ratho HQ.
Finance convener Cllr Alasdair Rankin regretted the job losses but said the council backed alternatives to payday loans.
And he defended the rent deal with Cheque Centre.
He said: “That property was difficult to get tenants for. That’s why these terms were offered and it has benefited the council taxpayer.”