People in affluent parts of Leeds are struggling with high debts new figures reveal as experts last night warned the crisis could get worse before it gets better.
Figures for the first nine months of this year show that average debt levels in households across the county are often higher in more affluent postcode areas raising fears those earning good wages who had easy access to credit in the good times are struggling to make repayments at a time when incomes are squeezed.
Figures from the debt charity StepChange showed that in Leeds the average person contacting them for advice had unsecured debts of £14,791. This compared with £14,978 in Sheffield and £16,901 in York.
There is also a huge disparity of wealth issues across Leeds.
In Leeds city centre, where a number of people live in city centre apartments, the figure was £28,357, in contrast with the less affluent Bramley area where the average unsecured debt dealt with by the charity was £12,262.
Experts last night warned that if interest rates increase the situation could get far worse as the cost of many mortgages and other borrowing would increase - placing further strain on already stretched household budgets.
A spokesman for StepChange said: “The single biggest reason for debt problems is unemployment or reduced working hours.
“That the more affluent areas have more debt is likely to be a result of the fact that those on higher incomes have access to greater levels of credit.”
Figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility have forecast that household debt will rise from £1.6 trillion in 2011 to £2.1 trillion by 2015.
Gary Shaw, a director with PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Leeds, said: “We are one of the most indebted countries in the world in terms of levels of debt that each household has. People’s ability to keep their heads above water is being underpinned by low interest rates. “I think if interest rates were normal then the level of defaults and repossessions would be enormous. The big challenge is going to be how they cope when interest rates go up.”