Coping with the Christmas debt hangover

IT’S BECOMING known as the post-Christmas debt hangover and affects an estimated 5.5m in the UK.

Research consistently shows that a third of adults approach January with financial dread as the extent of their festive spending and the long wait for payday sink in.

Of course it’s great news that despite the economic outlook the High Street once again broke all previous records. With Boxing Day falling on a Monday, takings just for that one day surged to a staggering £4.3bn and it’s good to know that this partly reflects the continuing attraction of the UK for bargain hunters from stronger economies who help bolster our balance of payments.

But what do you do when the upbeat headlines fade and ‘Families lead the way as sales set to break shopping records’ turns into a six month struggle to pay off the Christmas bills – the case for the average customer.

Horsham is not immune despite the recent study featured in this paper showing that our district is rated – in terms of quality of life – among the top 50 most desirable locations in the UK.

Surprisingly, for a part of the country traditionally identified as ‘wealthy’, money worries are the prime concern for people in the South East. That’s from research by the Samaritans quoted on Horsham District Council’s website which offers advice and help to individuals who have lost control of their money.

The free debt advice offered by the CAB, National Debtline and Consumer Credit Counselling Service, is to be applauded. But first and foremost education is the key to equipping consumers with the skills to manage their finances effectively.

I want to reassure vulnerable people that the Government has not been idle in this area. Ministers are undertaking a detailed review of consumer credit and personal insolvency to establish how people can get a fairer deal when borrowing money, whether they can manage their borrowing better, and how to improve help for those who run into financial difficulty.

Some £27m has also been made available to secure the future of the face-to-face debt advice programme for 2011-12, and the Government has established the Money Advice Service to offer free national financial advice, increase levels of financial literacy and empower consumers to take charge of their finances.

We want to increase transparency and ensure that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed decision about the solution most appropriate for them.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham