Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Presbyterian Mutual savers to get options

Presbyterians who have money frozen in a mutual society may be given the opportunity soon to decide on its future.

Borrowers and investors in the Presbyterian Mutual Society, which went into administration late last year because of a run on its funds, are likely to receive information shortly from the administrator Arthur Boyd outlining the options facing them.

There is the possibility of liquidation, which could involve financial loss, or a slower run-down which might allow for a rise in the presently-depressed property markets, in which the PMS is heavily involved. Either way it is a choice which the members — of what had been a hitherto successful financial venture — would not have anticipated having to make.

The society, which is open to Presbyterians only, has assets of £300m, with loans to members of £180m and £130m in commercial property.

Despite the confusion over titles, the society and the Presbyterian Church are separate legal entities, though there have been calls for the Church to help members who are in financial difficulties.

A church spokesman said yesterday that there were a number of benevolent and central funds within the Church which were available to help people in cases of hardship, but that so far there had not been a high take-up of these facilities.

If the impasse continues and the society's funds remain frozen, there might be a greater demand for assistance due to “hardship”.

However if assistance is needed for sums of more than £1,000, there could be legal difficulties.

The Church would have no problem in raising money for a charity or overseas project, but providing significant totals for individuals and organisations with money frozen in a mutual society would be a complex matter, involving the formal position of the Church and other legal considerations.

It is believed that many individuals and a number of churches have large amounts of money at present frozen in the PMS, without any immediate prospect of a change in the situation.

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