PEOPLE are preparing for a turbulent economic future as Hyndburn starts to feel the credit crunch in earnest.
According to Department for Work and Pensions figures, the number of people in Hyndburn claiming unemployment-related benefits rose sharply in 2008.
In September 1,194 were claiming Jobseekers Allowance – a rise of 231 compared to last October.
This equates to 2.4 per cent of the working population, compared to a North West figure of three per cent and a national one of 2.3 per cent.
Dramatic changes were seen in the Spring Hill and Peel wards but rises were seen throughout all Accrington wards.
Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "I’m expecting the latest figures to be much worse. It’s quite startling reading.
"Hyndburn has a fragile economy and it’s always one of the first to feel any chill winds of recession. It’s not just a case of hypothetical figures that we are seeing, we are seeing real job losses.
"Some very high-profile jobs have been lost at Thomas Cook at the Globe Centre and at the Nori brickworks."
Honeywell Estate Agents, in Queen Street, Great Harwood, is among the latest casualties of the squeeze.
The branch has been "mothballed" at a time when estate agents nationwide are selling an average of one property a week because of the housing market downturn.
Manager Sarah Greenwood said: "We have closed the branch for at least the next few months. We hope it is only temporary and we are classing ourselves as a virtual office because we are still on the Internet.
"There have also been some cutbacks in staff and hours."
This year in England and Wales the Citizens Advice Bureau saw a 51 per cent increase in mortgage and secured loan inquiries and a 10 per cent increase in fuel debt concerns between July and September compared with 2007.
Hyndburn CAB manager Andy Latham said: "While there hasn’t been a significant increase in the number of debt inquiries we have dealt with, there has been a significant change in the amount of debt people are trying to deal with.
"The increase in the number of inquiries about basic essentials is worrying and these figures show how the current economic situation is hitting vulnerable and low income households the hardest."
Hyndburn MP Greg Pope revealed he too had noticed a rise in the number of people worried about home repossessions, bank and credit facilities and businesses facing difficult times.
He said: "We can’t predict what’s going to happen because the economic circumstances are turbulent, but the last thing we want to see is people losing their homes through repossession.
"At times like these it’s the job of the Government to try and help people through and it is coming up with policies to try and do just that"
The Samaritans, who provide emotional support, have seen a rise in the number of calls relating to the economy and the hardship faced by families.
Michael Gerrard, deputy director of the Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley branch, said: "Job insecurities are leading to relationship breakdowns and it’s not only affecting the bread winner. It is affecting other family members with a knock-on effect on the children.
"Emotional problems and job worries do lead to talk of suicide and the number of calls nationally has increased. We encourage people to talk about their feelings and the Samaritans are manned 24 hours a day."
Call 662424 or the national helpline on 08457 90 90 90.
* In an Observer web poll 55 per cent of people said they had been affected by the credit crunch.