Darlington Building Society has been praised for introducing an industry-leading draft of measures to support members during the economic turmoil resulting from the coronavirus crisis.

The Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Chris McEwan, and the Director of Darlington Partnership, Seth Pearson, have welcomed the steps taken by Darlington Building Society to ease hardship and anxiety for customers, staff and local communities.

Underpinning the Society’s customer care policy during the pandemic has been a commitment to help every borrower keep their home.

That includes a pledge not to start any action to repossess a member’s home before May 30, 2021, if they are in arrears due to the pandemic, as long as they keep working with the Society to get the mortgage back on track.

Darlington Building Society, chief executive Andrew Craddock said: “Our members come first, and we want to ensure the right support is available during any period of personal disruption, ill health or financial difficulty arising from coronavirus.”

The Society has also signed up to a pilot scheme called PACE, teaming up with Money Advice and Pensions (MAPS) to create a gold standard for free debt advice to members.

In addition, the Society has agreed more than 800 payment deferrals for residential mortgage borrowers, as well as 23 for commercial borrowers. That three-month mortgage payment deferral was extended to October 31,2020 for those who had not yet taken one.

Meanwhile, for those who have already taken advantage of a payment deferral, a range of flexible options were made available, including a three-month extension of the deferral.

Further support for members has come from the Society’s customer-friendly reaction to the Bank of England base rate being reduced twice in the first two months of lockdown. When that happened, Darlington Building Society reduced the Standard Variable Rate by the full 0.65% for mortgage borrowers, and delayed rate reductions for savers for as long as possible.

Penalty fees have also been waived where members have had an urgent need to access their savings from fixed rate accounts.

Darlington Building Society also recognised the increased sensitivities and practical difficulties surrounding bereavement, so it has made it easier for loved ones to make financial arrangements.

Every branch has remained open for business throughout the pandemic, with opening now extended to Saturdays, while rules around third party withdrawals have been relaxed to help those unable to travel to branches.

Councillor McEwan said: “We are clearly going to see increased anxiety amongst people because of the economic impact of coronavirus, and it is great to see an important local employer like Darlington Building Society doing what it can to ease the pressure on customers and staff and give them breathing space at this difficult time.”

Mr Pearson, who is also director of Darlington Cares, added: “It has been wonderful to see communities coming together during these unprecedented times, and this important package of measures by Darlington Building Society will make a real difference to local people facing difficulties.”