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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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The number of consumer debt cases dealt with by The Highland Council's Money Advice Service in the first six weeks of this year has risen by 57% over the same period last year. So far in 2004, the Money Advice Service has received 130 new contacts, 100 of whom have multiple debts.

Excessive use of credit cards over the Christmas period is blamed for the festive hangover across the country.

Consumers are being advised not to compound their problems by borrowing more money to repay debts. Instead they are being encouraged to seek free, impartial help and advice locally throughout the Highland area from the Money Advice Service or from voluntary sector agencies.

The Money Advice Services has officers working throughout the Highlands, who can arrange to see clients in their area and provide a flexible service. Consultations are also available by telephone or email.

Councillor David Munro, Council spokesman for consumer affairs and public health, said: "Many people just don't know who to talk to about their money problems. Free, local help is only a 'phone call away and consumers can talk to someone who understands the situation and who can come up with options to help make the difference."

The Office of Fair Trading has also produced a free booklet "In Debt? Help yourself out". If a member of the public wishes to speak with a money adviser or would like to receive a copy of the OFT booklet, contact should be made via the local rate number of - 0845 600 4222 - or by emailing money.advice@highland.gov.uk.

Note: At the end of 2003, borrowing has risen to an average of 4,426 for every adult in the United Kingdom not counting mortgages, an increase of 1,043.

For further information please contact Pat Sproul, Money Advice Manager, 01463 228729.