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Tower Hamlets has second highest figures in UK for problem debt

PUBLISHED: 11:53 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:38 25 September 2017

8.3 million adults in the UK are living with problem debt. Picture: Yui Mok/PA images

8.3 million adults in the UK are living with problem debt. Picture: Yui Mok/PA images

PA Wire/PA Images

People living in Tower Hamlets have the second highest levels of problem debt in the country, a survey has revealed.

Research by the Money Advice Service and data specialists CACI found the borough is second only to Newham as the most over-indebted local authority with 22.7 per cent of the population affected.

Over-indebted individuals are defined as those who find meeting monthly bills a heavy burden and/or those who have missed at least three bill payments in a six-month period.

One in six people nationally have financial worries, equivalent to 8.3 million people.

Sheila Wheeler, director of debt at the Money Advice Service said: “Debt is a complex challenge and one that needs a collaborative approach if we are to successfully address it.”

The NGO (non-governmental organisation) plans to tackle the issue with a new strategy including identifying and targeting priority groups who have problem debts.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets said help for indebted people was available through its new partnership employment programme called Workpath.

She said: “It aims to give every resident targeted support and skills to find a good job and get them out of a low income trap.

“In the first year alone WorkPath will support 1000 residents who face the greatest challenges to get into work and improve their financial situation.

“We will also support an additional 4000 residents to make significant steps towards a long term job, through a range of courses to increase their skill and qualifications.

The spokeswoman said a borough wide strategy to tackling poverty was in place moving forward while advice could be offered.

She said: “We know that housing affordability is an issue for local people. The council has put in place recommendations of Tower Hamlets Affordability Commission to reduce rents, so for example a family living in a new three-bed property will be up to £5,791 better off and we have just opened a new council-owned housing estate with genuinely affordable rents this month.”

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, added: “A sustained period of austerity based policies from central government has seen benefits cut and a pay freeze introduced, while costs such as housing across London have continued to rise. That has put our residents’ budgets under considerable pressure.

“I am proud that, as a council, we are continuing to protect frontline services and we are committed to delivering genuinely affordable housing in Tower Hamlets.

“However, ongoing government cuts mean we must find we find £58m of savings - that’s £1 in every £6 we currently spend - and that will impact on how we deliver public services going forward.”

Have you been affected by debt? Have your say, take our poll.

For advice and support, visit citizensadvice.org.uk

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