Banks blamed for debt problems

BANKS' relentless promotion of loans and credit cards are driving people deeper into debt, according to CAB chiefs at Felixstowe.Half of the Citizens' Advice Bureau's clients in the past year - 12,449 out of 25,463 - had debt problems, with nearly half the money owed being in respect of personal bank loans.

BANKS' relentless promotion of loans and credit cards are driving people deeper into debt, according to CAB chiefs at Felixstowe.

Half of the Citizens' Advice Bureau's clients in the past year - 12,449 out of 25,463 - had debt problems, with nearly half the money owed being in respect of personal bank loans.

Over the past two years, advisers at the CAB in Orwell Road have dealt with clients with debts totalling £3.7 million.

Julie Waters, money adviser at the bureau, said debt was a huge problem in Suffolk and nationally with insolvency levels in Britain having risen to record levels.

“The banks continue to target customers with relentless promotion of loans and credit cards and are now targeting students by offering giveaways such as music players when a free overdraft facility would be more useful and prevent their debts from increasing,” she said.

“We are also finding that a great many of them are more ruthless in pursuing customers for debts and in the case of vulnerable clients we have had to advise that this is harassment and will be reported to Trading Standards.”

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Several clients had also reported difficulties in obtaining basic bank accounts and said branches in Felixstowe had refused to allow them to open such accounts.

To help deal with the debts problems, the CAB secured funding from the Financial Inclusion Fund, which enabled advisers to give an extra 18 hours of advice - cutting waiting times for appointments to between one and two weeks.

In the past year, bank loans have amounted to a total of nearly £1m for people heavily in debt and seeking help from the bureau in Felixstowe, credit card payments £513,000, store accounts £122,000, mortgages £283,000, while water rates, gas, electricity and tax debts were tiny by comparison.

Other issues dealt with by the bureau included employment matters, benefits and tax credits, housing problems, relationships, consumer goods and services, health, travel, immigration, asylum and nationality.

Do you think changes should be made to the way personal loans are promoted? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk