Hundreds of Leeds residents struggling to cope with debt

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Hundreds of people in Leeds cannot afford to pay essential bills because they are struggling to cope with rising debts, a charity has warned.

Charity StepChange says that 1,352 people in the city, with average debts of nearly £9,000, called its helpline for advice in the first half of 2015.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange, said: “Everyone faces ups and downs in life, but more than 11m people in Britain are now experiencing some financial difficulty and a quarter of those are in severe problem debt.

“Leeds is no exception and although the economy is beginning to recover, millions of households remain vulnerable to shocks to their income over the next year and many could find they have no alternative but to turn to credit to cope, which can quickly make the problem much worse.”

On average, those who called the service were £4 short of being able to afford even their essential bills every month, the charity said.

The charity has also released a new report, which says more than a fifth of people in the UK are showing signs of financial difficulty and 2.6 million people are struggling with severe debt.

The report last week comes after latest Bank of England figures revealed the highest annual increase in borrowing on credit cards and personal loans for nine years.

Mr O’Connor added: “Debt can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, including sleepless nights, anxiety and mental and physical health problems with knock-on effects for their families.”

For free debt advice, contact 0800 138 1111.