Warning as household debts rise to top £1.5 trillion

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education and social affairs reporter

image copyrightPA
image captionMortgages make up most of people's debts

Household debts have risen to £1.5tn in the UK for the first time, new statistics show.

After a period of flat growth, debt has begun to rise again in recent years.

The Money Charity, which compiled the statistics, says UK adults owe an average of nearly £30,000 each - mostly in mortgages, but also in loans and credit cards - 83% of the country's annual economic output.

Some 87% of this debt is in the form of mortgages, secured by property.

But UK adults also now owe an average of £3,737 in loans and credit cards.

With inflation set to rise, borrowers are urged to start cutting their debts.

The warning from the charity, which runs training programmes in schools and for adults, comes days after the governor of the Bank of England warned inflation rates are likely to rise to 2.7% in 2017.

According to Bank of England figures, total debt rose by £50bn in the past year - or 3.5% - to break £1.5tn. That followed a 2.3% increase the previous year.

That is much less than pre-credit crunch growth, which neared 10%, but shows a renewed upward trend after a period of stagnation - after hitting a high of £1.39tn in September 2008, it was five years before the total was back at that level.


Michelle Highman, chief executive of the Money Charity, said: "When we see these record levels of debt, it's important to remember that there is nothing necessarily wrong with borrowing.

"But with interest rates so low at the moment, it's easy to think that high levels of debt are manageable.

"On Thursday, Mark Carney claimed inflation will rise to 2.7% next year.

"More inflation means higher interest rates, which we'll all have to pay on our mortgages, loans and credit cards.

"If you're in debt, particularly if you have a variable mortgage, it's time to prepare by taking control of your finances."

House prices

The charity has been compiling money statistics from a range of official sources since 2005 and publishes them on a monthly basis.

November's statistics reveal that average personal debt rose £1,036 over 12 months to September to just under the £30,000 mark.

Some 87% of this debt is in the form of mortgages, secured by property.

But UK adults also now owe an average of £3,737 in loans and credit cards.

The charity pinpoints rising house prices, low levels of savings and the normalisation of debts as reasons for high levels of indebtedness.

Those concerned about debt are urged to seek advice from impartial charities such as StepChange, Citizens Advice, Pay Plan, Christians Against Poverty or check the Money Advice Service debt advice locator.

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