A worrying trend of household debt emerged after new figures from the charity, Step Change Debt, underlined that Cunninghame North was ranked the second worst Scottish parliamentary constituency for the average monthly household budget deficit.
On average the 124 Step Change clients in Cunninghame North had a deficit of £76.57 each month, lower than every other constituency with the exception Glasgow Southside (the First Minister’s constituency) where the average deficit was £86.50.
A breakdown of the figures showed that:
21% were in electricity arrears (averaging £1,236), 8% were in gas arrears (averaging £964), 48% were in council tax arrears (averaging £1,883), 17% were in rent arrears (averaging £507) and 32% were in mortgage arrears (averaging £4,066).
A further 15% of clients were found to have taken out a payday loan, with 9% in arrears (averaging £1,633), 66% had a credit card, 34% of whom were in arrears (averaging £5,738), 50% had some form of catalogue debt(s), with 3% being in arrears (averaging £2,094), 44% had taken out a loan of time kind, with 57% being in arrears (averaging £5,742), 9% had a store card of some description, with 9% being in arrears (averaging £1,484), 51% percent had bank account overage, 41% of whom were in arrears (averaging £1,111) and 15% had home credit, with 3% being in arrears (averaging £927).
In its ‘Scotland in the Red: The Impact of Debt in Scotland’ report, Step Change described council tax arrears across the country as a “growing crisis” and said that nearly 700,000 people in Scotland were either at risk or had a debt problem.
Perhaps most alarmingly, 50% of clients were in arrears on their essential bills which averaged at £147,796.
Jamie Greene MSP said that the figures made for extremely difficult reading as they highlighted the sheer extent of the problem in Cunninghame North. He said that household figures becoming an epidemic and said that the report’s key recommendations around free debt advice, new structures to addressing arrears and the establishment of a clear action plan must be taken on board by Scottish ministers.
“These figures were some of the most difficult I have read since becoming an MSP. They highlight just how significant of a problem household debt is in Cunninghame North. If we don’t act to address indebtedness then we could soon see this becoming a real epidemic not just in North Ayrshire, just across the whole of Scotland.
“The recommendations set out in the report are all achievable with the right leadership. Offering free debt advice and putting together clear plans of action to addressing the issue could be transformative in just a few years.
“The levels of debt highlighted in the figures is not sustainable and has the potential to get out of hand quickly, potentially leading households to bankruptcy. This is clearly an area where more leadership is required.”