Desperate days for those facing a debt-fuelled Christmas
I love Christmas. But it can turn out to be a financial nightmare for millions who end up overspending. Even before this weekend, almost six million people had already borrowed money to pay for Christmas this year, according to R3, the insolvency trade body.
That's an alarming increase of almost fifty per cent on the same period last year. In fact more than seven million people fear they won't have enough money to comfortably pay their bills at the end of the month due to their Christmas spending. For many, the pain of paying for Christmas will carry on for months.
But for some, getting into debt now can be the first step towards the nightmare of isolvency. In fact in March, R3 research discovered that a third of insolvencies were caused by spending at Christmas. Official insolvency figures for the year won't be published until sometime in 2011, but they are likely to show an increase over last year's record levels of people becoming bankrupt or taking out an IVA, according to Mark Sands, national head of bankruptcy at RSM Tenon.
"Total personal insolvencies in 2010 are likely to exceed last year's record total of 134,132," he predicts. It's easy to accept such figures and shrug them aside as simply being a sad part of the harsh times we currently live in. We know that things will get tougher because of the austerity measures and cutbacks imposed by the Coalition Government.
Shelter this week warned that Britain could be on the brink of a rise in homelessness after a YouGov survey found the equivalent of 835,000 households admit to being in arrears with their rent or mortgage, compared to just 405,000 households last October.
The survey also showed that increasing numbers of people are fighting to stay afloat, as 3.7 million households said they constantly struggle to pay their rent or mortgage, an increase of almost double since October last year. Tough times indeed.
One man for whom it has all got too much is a 63-year old Cambridge man who was hauled before his local county court this week. At a bankruptcy hearing in June this year he resorted to trying to set fire to a court, after being told that he could lose his house.
He told a fresh hearing this week that his actions were a protest at the legal system that led to his home being threatened. But his desperate measures failed to save his home and simply led him to be charged with arson and assault among a list of other crimes. The net result of his debt problems could be a prison sentence.
What the story teaches us is that the tragedy of someone losing their home can be devastating. So we shouldn't simply shrug at the prospect of record insolvency figures and hundreds of thousands at risk of being thrown out of their property.
I hope that in 2011 the Government reverses its plans to penalise the poor. There's fat chance of that happening, I know. But I remain hopeful that the season of goodwill can, at least, be extended to people who end up struggling next year because of Christmas over-spending.
That goodwill has to start with banks and credit card companies who should, at least while times are so hard for so many, put a cap on the profits they make from high interest and late payment fees. As we know from experience, many people end up in an out-of-control debt spiral because they can't afford to repay debt bloated by ever-increasing interest and charges.
The Government has consistently fudged dealing with excessive charges, letting banks continue to get away with high overdrafts and borrowing rates. But introducing a simple cap on credit rates – on the total amount a firm can charge – could help many people to avoid falling into desperate debt.
The Labour Co-operative MP Stella Creasy managed to get the Government to consider curbing rates on the high cost of credit for Britain's three million poorest borrowers. She has targeted doorstep lenders and payday loan companies that charge outrageous rates for short-term borrowing.
I hope her campaign proves successful, but next I hope the campaign turns its attention to banks. My dream would be to report in 12 months' time that insolvency figures are down and that the banks have turned out to be responsible lenders.
Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?
What would happen if you put a statistician in a casino with £1m?
Simon Read: 'The fight must go on over equality on expat pensions'
More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms