PEOPLE turning away from the high street banks in protest over branch closures are giving an alternative financial institution the thumbs-up.

Described as a 'community bank', Leominster Money Box Credit Union officially opens its new premises in West Street tomorrow.

A spokesperson said: "Lots of people have shown interest. Disillusionment with the existing banks and their continuing branch closures in aid of increased profits was voiced very strongly."

There are about 800 credit unions in the UK and the movement has been growing fast since the late 1980s.

Credit unions are co-operative financial institutions owned by their members, who are encouraged to save regularly and can take out loans at a rate of one per cent a month on the outstanding balance.

Leominster 'Money Box' has 171 members, £21,650 in savings and, of this, £9,000 out on loan.

After working from Shopmobility since starting up in December 1997, the 'Money Box' has now received grants from Herefordshire Council and Leominster Town Council.

The money has helped them rent their new central premises. Opening hours have been extended to two sessions a week, Tuesday and Friday from 11am-2pm.

"Because the Money Box is run completely on a voluntary basis, it will only have limited opening times until they receive funding for staff," the spokesperson said.

"Up to then they will be looking for more members interested in volunteering to run the collection points."

Leominster mayor Neil Stone opens the new premises at 14 West Street tomorrow at 10.30am.