In recent years, a huge amount of time has been spent talking about the levels of debt that the country faces – but far too little time has been spent on the debt that millions of British families have to deal with.
Perversely, the government’s pursuit of austerity in an attempt to reduce government debt has contributed to higher levels of personal debt for many households – including those public-service workers who have suffered eight years of zero pay rises, followed by a government imposed cap on earnings.
Today’s UNISON/TUC report Britain in the red shows how unsecured household debt has rocketed – rising £48bn between 2012 and 2015. Over three million UK households (one in eight of the total) are paying more than 25% of their household income on repaying these debts – with half of those paying more than 40% of their income on such debt repayments.
That’s 1.6 million UK households lumbered with debt repayments approaching half of their income every single month. And those with the least money are unsurprisingly the hardest hit.
And it’s getting worse. Consumer credit is rising at a rate of 10% a year as people place more and more items on credit cards.
And is it any wonder they’re forced to? With stagnating wage growth coupled with rising rent and transport costs, how else are Britain’s squeezed workers meant to make ends meet?
Borrowing can feel like the only option, and once it begins it prove impossible to dig yourself out of it. For too many people, debt is something that rises without hope of ever been paid off in full.
In the end, there are parents forced to choose between paying the rent and feeding their kids.
In 2016. In Britain – one of the richest countries in the world.
The solution is obvious, but it’s one that the government show no sign of heeding.
Britain needs a pay rise – especially for public sector workers hit by year after year of pay freezes. The alternative is longer queues at the pay day lenders and the food banks.
Our new prime minister must decide if this is what she wants May’s Britain to be famous for.