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London in the red report: A capital in debt

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Over half a million Londoners are in problem debt

Our analysis shows that Londoners are more at risk of problem debt than the UK average, regardless of where they live in the capital and relative borough deprivation levels. We estimate over half a million Londoners are in problem debt.

In 2017 the highest proportion (17%) of StepChange clients came from London. These clients are more likely to live in social housing, have rent arrears if they live in deprived London boroughs, and have higher council tax arrears than the UK average.

We estimate over half a million Londoners are in problem debt

Our data also shows that our clients from London have more trouble keeping up with paying for the essentials, particularly housing bills, than our UK clients on average.

Our recommendations

Problem debt is a priority issue for London with high economic and social costs. There needs to be more co-ordination at a London-wide level to ensure:

  • Earlier signposting, and improved access, to free regulated debt advice
  • More investment to ensure Londoners have access to affordable credit
  • Co-ordination across London local authorities to promote and share best practice council tax collection procedures
  • Co-ordination across London local authorities, housing associations and private sector landlords to identify tenants in financial difficulty and provide support

Download the summary now to read more about our research and recommendations.

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Read our methods and analysis, and references for our research. If you'd like to see data for each London borough, read our debt statistics for individual borough reports.

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Debt statistics for each London borough

Methods and analysis

We analysed data from 13,120 clients who received first time advice through our debt telephone helpline in 2017 and had a known London borough postcode we are able to provide a picture of problem debt in London in 2017. We’ve compared this with clients who received first time advice through our debt telephone helpline in 2017 across the UK as a whole and looked at differences across London’s 32 boroughs.

Bailiff referral figures were for 2016-17 from Money Advice Trust “Stop the Knock” data.

Associations with levels of deprivation were assessed using scores for indices of multiple deprivation for 2015 for each London borough and were analysed using the Spearman rank correlation test. Associations were reported if they were statistically significant (p<0.05).


  1. 'Transforming Lives: a review of the social impact of debt advice for UK individuals and families evaluated using SROI' (2014), Baker Tilley and StepChange Debt Charity
  2. 'Stop the Knock' (2017), Money Advice Trust
  3. 'The financial lives of consumers across the UK' (2018), The Financial Conduct Authority
  4. 'London Stalling: Half a Century of Living Standards in London' (2018), The Resolution Foundation and Trust for London
  5. 'Working collaboratively with debt advice agencies: A strategic toolkit for creditors' (2017), Money Advice Service

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