WIGANERS contacting a leading debt advice organisation owe an average of £80,000, shocking new figures show.
The extent to which many people in the borough are struggling to keep their heads above water financially was revealed on a new debt map prepared by free advice service Payplan.
The borough’s highest debts were recorded in Wigan town centre, with each person in WN1 having, on average, outstanding payments of £80,717 in secured and unsecured debts.
The largest new debts recorded were in Hindley, where residents had contacted Payplan about more than £22m of owed money in the last 12 months, while the least indebted area of the borough was Leigh, with around £14.75m of new debts.
The lowest per capita debts were found in the WN6 area around Shevington and Standish, where each resident seeking advice owed an average of £72,694.
The lowest numbers of people contacting Payplan were also in Leigh, with 198 residents getting in touch in the past year, while 284 people in WN2 rung the advice line concerned about meeting their repayment obligations.
The figures were notably higher than in several surrounding Greater Manchester towns, with residents in Bolton postcodes having average debts of around £67,000 and people from Salford owing around £68,000.
However, the amount owed was even higher in other towns, with residents in St Helens and parts of Bury owing, on average, more than £100,000.
A Payplan spokesman said: “The total amount of debt accumulated by Wigan residents who asked for help stood at £21,510,917, working out at an average of £76,280. Some people with this amount of debt are likely to have built it up through taking out a mortgage, with over £16.5m of the total debt being secured. The £4.9m of unsecured debt is through products like payday loans, which come with high interest rates.
“In terms of the average debt per person seeking help, Tyldesley was the area within the Wigan metropolitan boundary with the highest average debt level of £120,824.88. The lowest average per person who has had their debt levels assessed is the WN5 postal area, which includes Billinge, Pemberton and Orrell. The figure was just over £60,000.
“There are quite a few signs on the high street that debt has become an unavoidable problem for many in the area. In total, there are 14 pawnbrokers and six cash checking shops, all of which springing up in an attempt to try and offer some people a way out of debt.
“Meanwhile, there are 54 charity shops in and around Wigan. Many are in the town centres of Wigan, Leigh, Atherton and Ashton-in-Makerfield, although one or two exist in some of the suburbs and smaller towns and villages.
“Along with pawnbrokers and cash checking shops, charity shops indicate how the economy has struggled, with more opening in units where other retailers have failed.