DEBT is rarely associated with the apparently affluent town of Thornbury - yet in the last year alone locals fell into arrears of more than a quarter of a million pounds.

An increasing number of people are feeling the brunt of the economic downturn in Thornbury and the surrounding rural villages, turning to services like the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for help as they struggle to cope with unexpected financial pressures.

Since April 2012, 600 locals have sought advice from Thornbury CAB's five volunteers and two supervisors with debt enquiries amounting to a staggering £263,432 overall.

Chantal Watts, advice services manager at South Gloucestershire CAB, told the Gazette the number of people seeking guidance from the Thornbury branch had grown steadily over the past two years.

"It’s getting worse, without a doubt," she said. "We’ve had people coming in who were about to lose their home. We are dealing with more unemployment issues, redundancies and people getting their hours cut, than we have ever before."

And no-one is safe in these times of austerity.

"The difficulty with people now is that people who are on benefits are even poorer. It’s mainly down to the welfare reforms and the bedroom tax," Mrs Watts added.

"We also see people coming in who would not have dreamt of using our service, people who had a high income and saw it drop all of a sudden and can’t keep up with their credit. We inform our clients and empower them. They might not even know their rights."

Under the new bedroom tax, to be introduced in April, people deemed to have a spare room will see their housing benefits slashed by 14 per cent.

CAB is the only non-specialist agency in South Gloucestershire to provide guidance on a variety of issues including debt and welfare, as well as housing and employment.

THERE are many ways readers can help support the Gazette's Save our CAB campaign.

We are looking for clubs, organisations, schools, businesses and individuals to organise fundraising events such as an office bake sale, coffee morning, sponsored walk, wine and cheese night, pamper evening, wear your pyjamas at work or school day or charity car wash.

Alternatively you can complete the Gazette's Save our CAB campaign coupon and return it with a donation.

The Gazette will be happy to publicise any event organised as part of the campaign.

We would also like to hear from people who have been helped by the CAB. To share your experience email or call 01453 540214.