Record numbers of struggling Burnley families borrowed money in the run-up to the festive season just to pay for Christmas.
The Pennine Community Credit Union, which covers Burnley and Pendle, lent almost £500,000 to 355 hard-up residents desperate to afford festive food and presents.
Bosses there said Burnley in particular has a massive problem with debt and Community Solutions, which runs the town’s food bank, said it expects there to be a rise in the number of families being referred in January and February as Christmas debt catches up with them.
It is the first year Pennine Community Credit Union has had an office in Burnley and manager Mrs Kathryn Fogg said staff have been inundated in the run-up to Christmas.
“It’s shocking, we’ve found people have no idea how much money they owe. We have been shocked to find how many people are over-indebted.
“It’s a big problem in Burnley because people have been going to high-street money shops which charge high interest rates.
“We’ve been inundated in Burnley with people wanting loans for Christmas. We’ve been very, very busy and have had to get more staff in.
“People aren’t borrowing huge amounts of money just enough to buy the average Christmas presents.”
Genevieve Waite, communications co-ordinator for Community Solutions, said: “Our anticipation is that we will see a massive influx in January and February after it’s hit them.”
Mr Gerard Spain, PCCU president, added: “To lend £496,135 responsibly in a single month shows just how robust the credit union has become.
“It proves more and more people are trusting their credit union.”
Yesterday food bank volunteers gave out 200 Christmas hampers to Burnley families in need. As well as the essentials, the parcels also included festive treats such as shortbread, crisps and chocolates donated by schools, churches and community groups.
They also delivered baby hampers and selection boxes for children.