Councils ‘have to tackle debt problems’

Councils should do more to establish exactly what the underlying reasons are for people's personal debt problems. 

The Local Government In…

Councils should do more to establish exactly what the underlying reasons are for people's personal debt problems. 

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) believes local authorities are not doing enough to find out why so many people are racking up debts and what action can be taken to address the issue.

A survey by the thinktank discovered 77 per cent of local authorities think personal debt is increasing or significantly increasing in their regions of control, while 59 per cent have seen a rise in council tax arrears, 24dash reports.

In terms of reasons why, high fuel costs, changes to the welfare system and continuing problems with a rise in the cost of living have been noted.

Jonathan Carr-West, LGiU chief executive, said: "Personal debt is an issue which has been growing and councils are often the first public bodies to see the effects. But they are also the arm of government which can do the most. From using licensing powers to halt the spread of illegal loans, to an understanding approach to debt repayment, councils can help people to grapple with debt before it gets too bad."

He added council budgets will be shrinking for the 2015-16 financial year, but it is important that provisions are still made to help those in need deal with the fallout of having debt problems. 

One thing that local authorities are being asked to look into is the early identification of potential debtors, which means problems could be caught before they get out of control. Action also needs to be taken on payday loans, including a ban on advertising in council properties.

Mr Carr-West believes councils should also be using their roles as community leaders to make sure the current personal debt crisis does not get out of control and consumers can always get access to the help they need. 

By Any White

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