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Middlesbrough Council blocks access to payday loan websites on …

Rocketing amounts of personal debt in Middlesbrough – a staggering £10m – have inspired a plan to tackle the problem.

Middlesbrough Council today unveiled plans to help drive down debt and promote affordable credit in the town.

The local authority’s latest step has been to block access to the most used 51 payday loan websites from its computers and to appeal to its partners to follow suit.

This means all computers used by staff and council computers used by the public – for instance, in libraries – will be affected by the ban.

A report presented to the council’s Executive revealed data provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau showing that total debt for the 1,300 people in MIddlesbrough seeking the service’s help – including residents from every ward in the town from Nunthorpe to Grove Hill – is in excess of £10m.

More than £8m of that figure is a result of payday loans, credit cards, overdrafts and unsecured loans.

The figures do not take into account people seeking help from other agencies or those struggling in silence.

The Executive agreed to support the recommendations of the report.

Councillor Tracy Harvey, Executive lead for welfare reform, said: “It is hugely important that we take steps immediately to kickstart the fight against what I believe is one of the biggest issues facing people today.

“One of the main problems we are seeing is where members of the public, needing money to tide them over, turn to payday loan companies and soon become trapped in a cycle of having to pay back obscene amounts.

“Blocking payday company websites on our computers may not address the underlying issues, but I believe will go some way to show we are prepared to make a stand and begin tackling this problem.”

John Daniels, manager of Middlesbrough Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “In the last two years we have seen an explosion in the number of people coming to us with payday loans.

“These companies are targeting the most financially vulnerable people and causing them further hardship, trapping them in a debt spiral.”

But Redcar and Cleveland Council has taken a different stance on the issue. Staff and residents using its computers to access payday loan websites will be first directed to an informative page.

Councillor Norman Pickthall, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “We did not want to block access to payday loans firms altogether because we were anxious that people who had already taken out loans might need to service them, via a council computer.”

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Middlesbrough Council blocks access to payday loan websites on …

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