Headlines: January 12th, 2009

A city council has recorded a steep rise in the number of people using its debt advice service. Manchester City Council says that in the opening days of the New Year many people are facing the reality of having overspent on credit and debit cards and that this and the impact of the credit crunch means they are facing a concerning and difficult time.

The city council runs Manchester Advice which handles hundreds of calls each week from people experiencing problems with debt. The council says the difficult economic times led to the number of calls to the service increasing by 40 per cent in October and November compared with January and February of last year.

The service offers free consumer guidance as well as information on what can be done to deal with debt. It can also help people to maximise their incomes, including giving advice on entitlements to benefits, tax credits or allowances. It advises those with debts to plan their budgets and to ensure that the most important bills, such as rent, council tax, mortgages, secured loans, gas, electricity and water charges are paid first.

With the numbers of people facing debt likely to rise in the New Year the council is warning local people not to pay for debt advice and says money spent on advice could be better used to reduce debts. Councillor Basil Curley, Manchester’s Executive Member for Adult Services, said, “It can be very worrying when suddenly you realise that you have overspent and combined with the credit crunch and rising prices that perhaps you can’t make payments which are due, but the staff here can offer some excellent advice and help the situation become easier.”