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Lowest debt levels

PEOPLE living in Shetland have on average the lowest level of personal debts anywhere in the UK.

Research from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) shows that the organisation’s clients reported an average debt of £19,338 on credit cards, personal loans and other unsecured credit, while the figure for Shetland was £12,278.

Nine of the ten areas with the highest average debt are in London or the south east of England, while Scotland’s average debt was given as £17,069.

The Shetland office of the Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) managed more than £3.2 million worth of debts from 245 clients, during 2010/11.

The bureau’s manager Les Irving said on Thursday that this was less than the previous year, because the organisation had been short of staff.

He added: “The average debt was £13,251, compared to a total of £4,397,263 and an average of £16,286 for the previous year.

“The amount of debt owed per client has been going down over recent years, but this figure is based on the people we see rather than the population of Shetland.”

Debt expert Martyn Saville of the consumer right’s organisation Which? said: “The surprising thing about these new statistics isn’t that the south east of England has the highest personal debt levels, but how uniform the broad debt levels are across the country.

“Once you factor in regional differences in salaries and house prices, as well as job insecurity and high food and fuel inflation, it’s arguably those areas outside the south east that are at greatest risk from unmanageable debt.

“If you’re struggling with your finances, it’s best to seek independent advice sooner rather than later.”