Nick Smith MP has blasted the Government’s record on wages after Citizens’ Advice Bureau dealt with £3m of debt problems in Blaenau Gwent in 2013/14.
The figure came as part of their annual report into the help they provide on everything from benefits to housing issues and unemployment.
They dealt with a total of 2,277 queries about debt and it now makes up one in three of all queries received.
They helped 493 people with debt problems and dealt with 1,200 debts totalling £3m. The average debt per client was £13,000 and they had an average of seven debts.
Other points from the report include:
- 55% of these clients advised on debt or benefits were aged 60 or over and over 51% had a disability or long term illness
- Rent, mortgage, fuel, council tax and water arrears comprise almost 27% of all of our clients’ debts
- Rent arrears enquiries rose by 75% between quarters 1 and 4.
- Nearly one third of debt enquiries concerned unsecured consumer credit debt
Speaking after the publication of the report, Mr Smith said it was proof that the Government’s championing of economic growth had meant nothing for ordinary people.
“The figures have consistently shown pay falling far behind inflation, and the change in regular pay being the lowest ever on record. Working people in Blaenau Gwent face a cost-of-living crisis which has left them over £1,600 a year worse off since 2010”, he said.
“No wonder Citizens’ Advice Bureau are swamped with debt worries. Austerity pushed budgets to breaking point but the reward at the end has failed to materialise for most.
“For the Tories to claim that people are ‘better off’ in the face of these figures shows just how out-of-touch they are.”
The news also comes as a Which? study into debt across the UK revealed 37.4% of those questioned in Blaenau Gwent have been squeezed by wage falls in real terms.
Rating the borough as 91 on their Financial Distress Index (100 being the worst), they found 9% of those questioned had defaulted on loans and bills, while another 5.5% had taken risky unsecured loans.
Mr Smith said: “It is troubling how many people in Blaenau Gwent are faced with the spectre of debt hanging over them. It ruins lives and makes day to day living difficult.
“I would urge anyone with problems to get in touch with Citizens’ Advice Bureau or the likes of Christians Against Poverty, which are fantastic services on our doorstep.
“A Labour government would extend free childcare provision, freeze gas and electricity bills, raise the minimum wage and build more homes to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. We would also bring in a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get the next generation into jobs and tackle the high levels of long term unemployment.”
For advice, contact CAB on 01495 292659 or Christians Against Poverty on 0800 328 0006