Concern over mounting debt

DEBT is reaching such high levels in Suffolk that it is undermining community wellbeing and holding back the county's economy.A new report into the growing problem of spiralling personal debt has found that more needs to be done to warn people of the dangers of borrowing from high interest lenders and getting themselves deeper in the red.

DEBT is reaching such high levels in Suffolk that it is undermining community wellbeing and holding back the county's economy.

A new report into the growing problem of spiralling personal debt has found that more needs to be done to warn people of the dangers of borrowing from high interest lenders and getting themselves deeper in the red.

In the most in-depth investigation into the county's debt problem to date, a special working party set up within Suffolk County Council today called for closer ties between agencies which help people avoid and overcome debt problems and a wider education programme to prevent people getting into financial trouble in the first place.

The Evening Star can today reveal that the credit and debt working party found:

Some Suffolk residents are unable access helpful financial advice or appropriate financial products

Some are turning to high interest lenders and paying more for utilities and other basic services

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Financial stress is leading to lower performance at work, stress-related absence and, in extreme cases, leading people to commit criminal acts out of desperation

The findings follow several months of investigation by the committee chair, councillor John Field, and fellow county councillors Terry Clements, John Goodwin and Bryony Rudkin.

In their draft report to the council's public protection scrutiny committee, which will consider the findings on Tuesday , the councillors said more needed to be done to help those burdened by high levels of personal debt.

They said: “We need to make further efforts to provide people who need financial services the knowledge necessary to minimise their risk.

“It is not easy to assess the true cost of loans or even to keep expenditure below income.

“We believe that the county council is well placed to encourage developments in financial education for at-risk groups and efforts here would be cost effective.”

The working party found there was committed work being done in the county on the issue of debt but it was undermined by “a lack of clarity and some duplication of effort between services”.

WEBLINK: www.suffolk.gov.uk

Members of the credit and debt working party recommended Suffolk County Council look at these areas:

The impact a lack of access to financial services has on communities in Suffolk

Whether the range of services and support available to the residents of Suffolk meets current and future needs

What Suffolk can learn from good practice in other areas

The opportunities for and benefits of consumer education and support

How Suffolk County Council supports alternatives to high interest lenders

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