Further action needed on debt

It’s important that the Welsh Government renews its commitment to tackling financial exclusion in light of growing debt levels in Wales.

Research from the Money Advice Service shows that the level of Welsh households in debt has increased from 16% in 2014 to nearly 20% in 2016; whilst Ordnance Survey data suggests that over 20% of residents in Newport are in debt.

Given that financial services regulation and monetary policy are under the jurisdiction of the UK Government, there are limits to what the Welsh Government can do to address the growing problem of debt in our society. However, the general steps outlined in the previous Welsh Labour Government’s ‘Financial Inclusion Strategy for Wales’ have the potential to make a big difference.

These steps include ensuring free cash machines are installed in priority areas as a matter of urgency, and increasing efforts to ensure everyone in Wales has access to a basic bank account. The strategy also places a strong emphasis on working closely with credit unions – including the excellent Newport Credit Union – to improve access to affordable short-term credit. I’d like to see the new Welsh Government renew its commitment to the Financial Inclusion Strategy as soon as possible; hopefully with the support and cooperation of opposition parties in the Senedd.