HARTLEPOOL has the highest level of debt for the whole of the North-East, new figures reveal.
The average person in Hartlepool is more than £95,000 in debt according to financial help experts.
And not including secured loans such as mortgages and car loans, the average debt is almost £30,000.
Citizens Advice workers in Hartlepool are struggling to cope with the demand for help from debt-ridden families and their staff are booked solid for the next three weeks.
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau chief Joe Michna said: “The rate of new people we are seeing for debt shows no sign of slowing down.”
Data collected by Payplan, a free debt help service, shows the average amount of debt per person in Hartlepool over the last 12 months is £95,190.
Even after removing secured debt for things such as mortgages, the figure is still £28,267.
It puts Hartlepool at the top of the debt table for the North East, where people are £17,000 more in the red than Darlington in second place with £78,530.
Figures from Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau, in Park Road, says the average level of debt in clients is between £15,000 and £20,000 per person.
But in some cases it can be as high as £60,000-£70,000.
Mr Michna said: “The figures are pretty concerning. To have £30,000 worth of debt with very little means of repaying those debts is more than slightly worrying.
“There are no signs of the overall debt situation in Hartlepool improving.
“There is no shortage of clients coming to us, and we are fully booked for the next three weeks.”
The service’s three dedicated debt advice workers are currently seeing up to 40 people a week. Appointments generally last between 90 minutes and over.
Mr Michna added: “Debt-related problems is the biggest part of the work we deal with.
“We see the full gambit of different kinds of debt from credit cards and bank loans to catalogues and pay day loans.”
And with Christmas coming he issued advice to help prevent people going to them for help in the New Year.
“There is always the temptation, for all the right reasons, to overspend on presents for friends and relatives,” said Mr Michna.
“A lot of the problems we have to deal with after Christmas are from people who have been generous, sometimes far too generous, in their spending and simply overspent by taking out credit to buy expensive gifts.
“Our advice is to be careful and spend within your limits rather than money which you don’t have or can’t afford.”
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau, at 86 Park Road, runs drop-in sessions, where no appointment is needed, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, between 9.30am-3pm.
You can also call (01429) 408401.