For the first time, Britons' personal debt exceeds Britain's GDP

Another worrying milestone on a nation's journey deeper into debt

Britons have racked up so much debt on loans and credit cards that the total borrowed now exceeds the entire value of the economy, new research shows today. The financial consultant Grant Thornton is forecasting that gross domestic product (GDP) will hit £1.33 trillion this year, less than the £1.35trn which was outstanding on mortgages, credit cards and personal loans in June.

The symbolic overtaking is the first time that the country's 60 million people owe more to the banks than the value of everything made by every office and factory in the country. It prompted a warning that personal borrowing was so out of control that many more people would be pushed over the "financial edge". The runaway housing market is the biggest reason why consumer debt has spiralled, totalling £1.131trn. Debt on personal loans and credit cards totals £214bn. Overall, individuals owe the staggering sum of £1,344,721,000,000.

Grant Thornton ascribed the level of borrowings to a "buy now, pay later" culture and warned that interest rate rises could impose a significant burden on families and individuals. "Fortunately, most consumer debt is secured and can be repaid over several years otherwise we would be technically bankrupt," its chief economist, Stephen Gifford, said.

The research further darkens the storm clouds gathering over the British economy. Repossessions, personal insolvencies and debt judgments have all risen by about a third in the past year as borrowers have struggled to cope with the impact of five rate rises in a year.

Yesterday the financial website moneyexpert.com suggested that 2.5 million people were "very concerned" about their personal financial situation.

In the United States, the sudden failure of the poor to repay home loans in recent months has sparked a "sub-prime" crisis that has spooked the financial markets and wiped billions of pounds off share prices.

Responding to the latest figures, the Bank of England predicted debts would remain a "social" rather than an "economic" problem, indicating it believes indebtedness will be contained to individuals rather than threaten businesses.

Grant Thornton's notional payback date for personal debt has advanced markedly through the calendar during the past 10 years. In 1997 the UK took until 23 August to pay off its debt, but this year the date will be 5 January the following year, 2008.

Mark Allen, a personal insolvency partner, said it was not uncommon to encounter individuals with debts of £50,000 spread across five credit cards on top of a mortgage. "In our experience these are the sort of people walking a perilous financial tightrope," he said. "All it takes is an increase in costs or, as is the present case, a rise in mortgage premiums due to higher interest rates, to force people to default on their repayments - hence the increase in bankruptcies and individual voluntary arrangements."

Repossession leapt 30 per cent in the first six months of this year compared with the first half of last year. County court judgments rose 32. 5 per cent and personal insolvencies in England and Wales 33 per cent to more than 62,000 last year.

Mortgage payments are making ever-larger dents in household income, rising from 12.5 per cent in 1997 to 17.6 per cent in May this year. Datamonitor, the independent financial analyst, warned this week that the total number of Britons credit blacklisted by 2011 will jump by 20 per cent to 8.6 million.

Moneyexpert.com suggested in its survey that 7 per cent of adults were "very concerned" about their ability to keep on top of their debts, which would amount to 2.5 million adults. However, 40 per cent of the 2,000 respondents were unconcerned about their ability to manage their borrowings.

Malcolm Hurlston, the chairman of the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, said Grant Thornton's research made a symbolic point. "Basically speaking, it's just a mathematical question: the relationship between GDP and borrowing. It's really another way of saying that house prices have been going up quicker than wages," he said. "But what is happening is that unsecured debt is less of a problem than it used to be, whereas secured debt is the problem, and I think the Council of Mortgage lenders is expecting the figures for repossessions to get worse."

He added: "The problem on the secured front - mortgages - is getting worse because of the rising gap between house prices and incomes. In terms of volume, it's not going to be as bad as the early 1990s because the mortgage companies are gearing up for it - this time they will be trying to avoid repossessions as much as possible. But there's going to be a lot of activity and a lot of people will find that they can't pay the money back."

Mr Gifford said: "The level of debt has so far not caused much of a problem for the UK economy. Interest rates have been historically low and the UK economy has been ticking along healthily. But with five interest rate rises in the past year the picture is changing and becoming a burden for families and households."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Helpdesk Analyst

    £23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

    Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

    £27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

    Senior Pensions Administrator

    £23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Administrator

    £25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are