POLITICS
31/12/2013 12:07 GMT | Updated 31/12/2013 12:15 GMT

Church Of England Still Has £80,000 Wonga Stake, Admits Justin Welby

Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby deep in thought during the National Housing Federation's annual conference at the ICC in Birmingham.

The Church of England has failed to dump its £80,000 stake in Wonga, five months after it was revealed to be indirectly investing in the payday giant despite being publicly opposed to payday lenders, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has admitted.

The Church's failure to get rid of its indirect stake in Wonga comes in spite of the Archbishop saying in July that it was not a "good thing".

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, the archbishop said that a review had been completed into the shares in Wonga held at "three stages removed" by the Church Commissioners.

"They are working out how they can dispose of those shares without disposing of millions and millions of pounds of investment at a loss because they have a responsibility to pensioners," Welby said.

The initial controversy over the Church of England's involvement with Wonga came after Archbishop Welby told the lender's boss Errol Damelin that the Church of England wanted to "compete" the lenders out of business through the creation of credit unions.

The Church of England, which claims to have a strong ethical investment policy that explicitly bans companies involved in pay day lending, had invested in Accel Partners, the US venture capital firm that led Wonga's 2009 fundraising.

Speaking in July, Welby expressed irritation and embarassment that Church funds had been found to be supporting businesses like Wonga, saying: "They shouldn't be investing in Wonga. We don't think that's a good thing.

He added: "What's clear is that... this is an embarrassment. We think that the pay day lenders charge vastly excessive amounts for the loans they make, that there is a totally inadequate range of choice for consumers in deprived areas."