A report by the government’s Money Advice Service (MAS) has said that Hull is the most heavily-indebted area in Britain, with 43.1% of the population admitting they were in serious trouble financially.
The report is another blow to the image of a city hoping for a change of fortune after last week being awarded the UK City of Culture 2017 title.
“There’s loads of debt everywhere,” said one visitor to a food bank in north Hull, who added he was not surprised the city topped the debt league.
“[People are] having to have loans to cater for the family – to just live basically – and it’s getting worse.”
Ann Jones, another person who relies on the food bank, said debt had even affected her health.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” she said.
“It makes me really ill.
“I am sure I’m not on my own, there are thousands of others.”
Ray Davies from Hull’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau said the city’s debt problem was partially down to many people being on low incomes there, “with a lot of people on the minimum wage”, and partially as the impact of welfare reforms.
And – Mr Davies said – the recent rises in utility bills were forcing more people to turn to payday lenders, which he described as “last-chance saloon loans.”
“We are seeing people who are having problems with their rent and their mortgage,” he said.
“And of course we’re seeing credit debt. Sometimes credit is being used to pay for essentials and – sometimes – people are tending to go to payday loan companies, which of course we wouldn’t recommend, to pay their basic essentials.”
The MAS report shows nearly nine million people across the UK are living with serious debt problems.
After Hull, Nottingham is named as the second-worst city for residents having debt problems, followed by Manchester, Knowsley and Liverpool.
Robert Croll, from debt management company Humber Debt Solutions, said the proliferation of payday loan companies on the city’s streets was making debt problems worse.
‘No money again’
“The availability of short-term money for people where you can pay it in the bank straightaway is crippling people,” he said.
“Because, if somebody needs an urgent £100 a week before payday they can go and get it from a payday loan company and pay a lot more in interest and charges back.
“When they get paid they have to pay it back and they have no money again.
“So, all of a sudden it spirals into a debt crisis and they have to take out another loan to pay another loan.
“In fact we have one client on a debt management plan with us who has 17 payday loans.”
Hull is regularly named as the worst-performing area on a number of lists, from 33% of the population smoking, compared to the English average of 21% to having 28% of adults classed as obese.
Also, the city has the highest number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in the UK.
However, there are signs of improvement.
The city has lifted itself off the bottom of the GCSE exam results table and has seen a multimillion-pound investment in rebuilding its schools.
The city hopes to become a European leader in offshore renewable energy technology, with plans to build a £210m “Green Port” and wind turbine factory on Hull’s Alexandra Dock.
Hull City Council leaders claim the City of Culture award could bring an additional £60m of spending and create 7,500 new jobs.
Mr Davies said he hoped the year-long event would bring an economic boost to the city.
“I celebrated along with everybody else at the news”, he said.
“I hope it brings investments and brings jobs, but time will tell.”