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Ipswich’s problem debts the worst in Britain says national cities’ report

PUBLISHED: 00:03 23 April 2020

Ipswich has the worst problem debt figures in the country according to a new survey. Posed file picture

Ipswich has the worst problem debt figures in the country according to a new survey. Posed file picture

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A greater proportion of people in Ipswich had problem debts than any other city or large town in the country according to new figures – sparking fears that the lockdown could have a devastating effect on the economy of the area.

Nelleke van Helfteren from Ipswich CAB felt that high costs and low wages in the town were a problem. Picture: LUCY TAYLORNelleke van Helfteren from Ipswich CAB felt that high costs and low wages in the town were a problem. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Figures from the Centre for Cities, which looks at the economies of the 63 largest urban centres in the country, showed that in 2018 there were 4,063 County Court Judgements for debt issued for every 100,000 people in Ipswich. That put the town ahead of Liverpool, Hull, Sunderland and Blackpool at the top of the list problem debtors.

Interestingly, the overall household debt in Ipswich was not as high as many other places. Most of the places with the highest level of debts and CCJs were in northern England and Wales.

A spokesman for the Centre for Cities said there was no obvious reason why problem debts should be so serious in Ipswich. But the report does point out that at the time of the survey the areas with the highest level of problem debts had branches of “Non Standard Finance” companies – payday loan or borrow to buy companies like Wonga or Brighthouse.

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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said the figures showed that lenders – banks, credit card companies and car finance businesses – had to be more careful when deciding whether people would be able to pay back loans they had taken out.

He said: “This does show that some people have had problems with paying back loans – and as we go through a very difficult time the government and lenders will need to know that they will have to help people manage their borrowing.”

Ipswich council’s Labour leader David Ellesmere said the fact that Ipswich was in the same bracket as some northern towns and cities showed that when the government came to support communities it would have to look at more than geography: “We have to make the government see that we are a community that needs help as much as those in the north.”

He felt the presence of payday lenders and other companies had not helped: “I am sorry for the staff of Brighthouse who have lost their jobs as the company has gone out of business, but I am not sorry to see the back of that kind of lender from our high streets.

“I hope people can find other sources of financial help – like Eastern Loans and Savings and other credit unions.”

And Nelleke van Helfteren from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau felt the relatively low wages in Ipswich were a factor – along with a low take-up of benefits: “Levels of welfare per capita is quite low in Ipswich which perhaps leads to higher levels of unsecured borrowing due to low incomes. We know that levels of Pension Credit claims are low compared to other areas of the country.”


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