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British households have been complacent and lost touch with "financial reality" during a year of "runaway" spending, an expert has claimed.

Shona Dobbie, head of the Alliance Trust research centre, made her comments in response to figures showing the first dip in household spending since the surge began in early 2006.

Despite the financial climate, consumers are reluctant to end their "elongated spending binge", she warned.

"Households that have routinely overstretched themselves through the past year or so will find it a struggle bringing their finances back under firm control, let alone dealing with the deficit left by this flight from reality," added Ms Dobbie.

Figures collated by Credit Action revealed that at the end of September, the average UK household debt stood at £8,681. Including mortgages, it totalled £55,403.

If the figure was based on the number of homes who had unsecured loans, it rose to £20,189, the charity reported.

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