Brighton and Hove has been named as one of the most debt-ridden cities in the country.

New figures from advice charity StepChange showed thousands of struggling debtors fell deeper into financial problems last year.

Despite levels of unsecured personal debt falling nationally, the report – based on calls made to the charity’s helpline – showed average sums owed in Brighton actually rose in 2012.

A StepChange spokesman said many people were struggling after Christmas with multiple debts including credit cards, overdrafts and payday loans.

One 25-year-old man from Brighton, who did not wish to be named, said the cost of living in the city made it more difficult to make monthly payments.

He said: “I took out two huge overdrafts with different banks when I started to find it tough to pay the rent.

“When they were maxed out I took out a credit card. Then the banks and the credit card company started chasing me for the money and I did not have any, so I took out more.

“It just seemed like I had no way to escape the vicious circle.”

In 2012, the average debtor in Brighton owed £18,500, a small rise from £18,474 in 2011.

Stave off creditors

However, there were sharp falls in owed cash in other cities including Manchester, London and Birmingham.

Nationally, the average amount owed fell to £15,995 with debts nationally falling by half a billion pounds in just one month in late 2012.

Last week The Argus reported that more people in the Brighton were turning to payday loan companies to help stave off their creditors.

Jackie Grigg, the director of Brighton-based debt charity Money Advice and Community Support, said there had been a 30% rise in the number of calls for help compared to last year.

Living expenses

She said: “What we are noticing more is that people in Brighton are having to use credit to pay for general living expenses rather than one-off purchases.

“People are finding it harder to find the money for the basics. Transport costs a lot here, rents are astronomical, and there aren’t a great deal of highly paid jobs.

“People can’t afford to buy enough food for their family. It affects people’s wellbeing because it’s such a worry.”

Rising debt

Delroy Corinaldi, the external affairs director of StepChange, said: “The rise in average debt levels in Brighton is concerning, especially when compared with the falling national average.

“Many families are struggling under a burden of debt as household budgets are squeezed by low wage growth and rising living costs.”

If you are struggling with debt, call StepChange on 0800 1381111.

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