Households choke on noose of debt, paying £200 per month in interest

Households are choking on a noose of debt
Households are choking on a noose of debt
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A “DEBT noose” is tightening around households, with families paying almost £200 a month just in interest, a report warned today.

The “interest burden” recorded for the last three months of 2011 equates to almost a quarter (24 per cent) of incomes after regular bills are paid, debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) said.

This rose by 0.1 per cent from the third quarter of last year as rises in living costs out-paced wage increases, its Consumer Debt and Money Report said.

Older people will be increasingly affected by debt problems, the study said, highlighting a rising demand for debt advice from late-stage professionals aged between 45 and 59.

“There has been a gradual rise in counselling demand from this group, with its share rising from 22.8 per cent in 2005 to 31.7 per cent by [the end of] 2011,” the report said.

Demand for debt advice is expected to peak in 2014, indicating the “lasting distress caused by the financial crisis”.

The charity said UK households’ determination to pay off their debts slowed as disposable income has been hit by high inflation, plus increasing petrol, utilities and housing costs and poor employment conditions.

The report said: “Interest payments are a heavy burden on household finances.

“With payment necessary regardless of economic circumstances, they pose a major threat to the solvency of many families.

“As a major spending component that must be met on time, the need to service debt is posing a significant challenge in the current economic downturn when household heads lose their jobs and income sources dry up.”

The report predicted rising unemployment, but a “positive effect” of the weak economy for indebted households will be several years of low interest rates.

The ratio of £1 in every £4 of disposable income spent on servicing debts increased to one in three earlier during the financial crisis as households piled on debt and then faced a deteriorating labour market.

Since the second half of 2009, the share of discretionary income spent on debt interest has been stable and the report predicts it will remain so in the coming months. The report also tracked the increase in mortgage debt as house prices have risen, from around £20,000 per household in the early 2000s to more than £47,000 by December 2011.

It highlighted high rates of home ownership in the UK at 66 per cent of households, compared with 42 per cent in Germany.

“With rising property prices and rising borrowing, mortgage debt has grown in importance compared with other areas of household finances,” the report said. “This is evident in the growing share of mortgage debt as a proportion of household debt. This has risen from 80.3 per cent in January 2000 to 86.3 per cent by the end of last year.”

Property repossessions began to increase in 2005, indicating households were already getting into trouble. Repossessions climbed until 2009 but have eased off.