Belfast Telegraph

New year, new money worries

Editor's Viewpoint

The post-Christmas bills plopping through the letterboxes will have eroded any remaining festive cheer in very many homes throughout Northern Ireland, according to the Money Advice organisation which has revealed a very dark picture of the trials facing a significant number of families.

One is six households are in severe financial difficulties and eight out of ten don't have enough savings to cover unexpected bills.

While some people undoubtedly spend unwisely, failing to budget properly for their weekly or monthly household bills, these figures point to a deeper problem in the local economy.

Recovery from the recession is slower in Northern Ireland than in many other regions of the UK and even for those in work the average pay is £5,000 less annually than the UK average. Add in problems like lack of job security, continuing job losses, pay freezes or paltry increases and the huge redundancy programme planned for the public sector and it can be seen how many people find themselves in financial trouble.

There are also many people living with negative equity having bought their homes at the height of property boom and who are now living in a home which they cannot realistically get rid of.

Our utility bills are traditionally among the highest in the UK - although fortunately we do not yet face water charges unlike other regions.

The image conjured up by the Money Advice statistics is of very many people swimming desperately against a tide of debt just to stay afloat.

Some people will point out that Northern Ireland people spend the most in the UK on holidays, takeaway food and a variety of consumer goods, but those figures will also include the comfortably off who can afford the odd luxury.

It is important to budget properly, as Money Advice urges, as it is surprising how much we spend on impulse buys which may not be the wisest choice in hindsight.

Yet these shocking statistics mean that Stormont politicians should follow the advice of the First Minister Arlene Foster, who said on taking up office that the economy would be top of her agenda. We need new inward investment, particularly of high value jobs, to create a sustainable, progressive economy which will bring real benefit across society.

Belfast Telegraph


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