Cash-strapped Sutton residents with existing money problems are carrying an average debt of £32,000 – twice the national average of £16,971.
Sutton’s citizens advice bureau said its clients’ debt levels, which did not include mortgage arrears, had risen 23 per cent in the three months from October 2008, when the average debt was £26,000.
Sutton CAB director Ann Kinahan said record numbers were now approaching the service for support and many householders were at risk of losing their homes.
Additional staff had to be drafted in to help cope with demand after calls to 60 per day in the last quarter of 2008 – an increase of about 50 per cent from in the same period in 2007.
Mrs Kinahan said most new clients asking for help were either self-employed people who had lost work or people who had been made redundant.
She said: “Whereas until last autumn the majority of debt enquiries were from people who were having difficult meeting their credit card payments, since October there has been a big increase in people who can’t pay their mortgages because of a sudden drop in income.
“This has meant they are struggling with every aspect of their household budget.
“It’s a very stressful, uncertain time for a lot of people.”
In response to the financial strain on Sutton residents debt counselling charity, Christians Against Poverty, has announched it will open a branch in North Cheam.
The charity will offer free, specialist advice and can offer clients a simple bank account to help pay their priority debts and insolvency services if needed.
Christians Against Poverty UK Ceo Matt Barlow said: “We aim to bring hope and a free, practical solution to the problem of debt, whilst helping individuals through the often traumatic consequences, which can include divorce, going hungry and even attempted suicide.”
Meanwhile Business Link in London is urging Sutton’s small businesses to seek expert advice and support so they can consider all the options before making staff cuts.
Regional manager Denis Palmer said: “It’s an incredibly pressurised environment right now for many businesses in Sutton, so it is completely understandable that many of them will be considering staff cuts.
“We’ve found that many of them are simply unaware of some of the alternatives open to them though – there are many ways of reducing costs before resorting to redundancies.
“These businesses are often based on the individual skills of a small number of people – lose them and they can be incredibly difficult to rediscover when the economy picks up.”
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