Average debts for Falkirk residents has risen by 8 per cent

A charity that offers free advice to people in Scotland struggling with debt says nearly half of its clients are now in arrears with council tax.

StepChange Debt says that the average amount of money clients had left over after meeting housing costs, paying to heat their homes and paying council tax was just £12.64 a month.

Locally, 37 per cent of the charity’s clients who live in the Falkirk East constituency are in arrears and 40 per cent in Falkirk West.

The charity now estimates nearly 700,00 people in Scotland are at risk of or in problem debt.

Just over 60 per cent of its clients are in debt due to circumstances changing in a way they didn’t foresee, such as ill-health, reduction in wages, sudden changes to welfare payments or unemployment.

Sharon Bell, Head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland said: “The vast majority of StepChange clients are in problem debt due to circumstances they could not have prevented or planned for such as unemployment, ill-health or reductions in income.

“We need more signposting to free debt advice, as the earlier someone gets debt advice the greater their options may be and the less harm they could experience.”

Another debt advice service has issued new figures which reveal average debts for people in Falkirk increased by 8% in the first three months of this year.

The UK Personal Debt Index (PDI) shows people seeking advice for serious financial problems in Falkirk have debts of around £22,795. As well as being one of the sharpest regional rises since January, the amount owed stands well above the national average of £18,829.

Compiled quarterly by Creditfix, the PDI is based on a survey of its customers.

CEO Paul Mason warned: “Even though employment is at its highest level in decades, we don’t know what is going to happen after Brexit. The UK could experience an economic downturn, bringing job losses, while experts are predicting an interest rate rise later this year. This would affect borrowers already on a precipice and struggling to make the minimum payments every month.”