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Average UK household owes nearly £13,000

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Household debt rose sharply in 2016, with the average household owing £12,887, excluding mortgage payments, according to research by the TUC.

This is up £1,117 on a year earlier and is the highest annual increase since at least 1997, the findings said.

The analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which show total unsecured debt in the UK rose to a record high of £349bn in the third quarter of 2016, well above the £290bn peak in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis.

Unsecured debt as a share of household income is now 27.4% – the highest it’s been for eight years.

The TUC said weak wage growth has left more families reliant on borrowing to support their living standards.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These increases in household debt are a warning that families are struggling to get by on their pay alone. Unless the government does more for working people, they could end the New Year poorer than they start it.

“Employment may have risen, but wages are still worth less today than nine years ago. The government is relying on debt-fuelled consumer spending to support the economy, with investment and trade in the doldrums since the financial crisis.”

Today’s findings echo recent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) figures showing that households are saving less than ever, and Bank of England data showing consumer credit growing at its fastest rate for 11 years.

O’Grady said: “There’s a lot the government could do to help. Public sector workers who have suffered severe cuts to their real pay since 2010 are long overdue a decent pay rise. The minimum wage needs to keep rising so the lowest paid workers can keep up with rising prices. And a major programme of public investment in rail, roads, new homes and clean energy could be targeted at communities where decent jobs are in short supply.”

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