BBC News has reported today that nearly nine million people across the UK are living with serious debt problems and according to a new report  by The Money Advice Service (MAS) very few people were making any attempt to get professional help.

It says the problem is particularly acute in five English cities, where more than 40% of the population is struggling to repay debt. According to the survey, 18% of Britons, 8.8 million people, consider they have “serious” financial issues.

MAS, which is backed with public money, said that for the first time, the survey had provided a detailed understanding of the lives of those who are in debt. The report found that 74% of those struggling with debt were “unhappy” and there is particular concern that very few people ask for help.

“Millions of people could escape their spiral of debt by accessing free advice,” said Caroline Rookes, the chief executive of MAS.

“We know it transforms lives and the sooner people access it, the better – to take steps to improve their life for good,” she said.

The study lists the top five cities where people are “over-indebted”.

  • Hull 43.1%
  • Nottingham 41.2%
  • Manchester 41.1%
  • Knowsley 40.7%
  • Liverpool 40.6%

To qualify as such, people had to feel that their debt amounted to a “heavy burden”, or else they had to have missed out on repayments in three of the last six months.

The most heavily indebted area was Hull, where 43.1% of the population admitted they were in trouble financially. The four other places were also in England: Nottingham, Manchester, Knowsley and Liverpool. All five areas had at least 40% of the population in heavy debt.

Latest figures from the Bank of England suggest that personal borrowing, including mortgages and unsecured loans, is now at £1.43 trillion.

That is the same level of borrowing that was reached during the pre-crisis peak in September 2008.