New research published today (24 June) by Citizens Advice in Devon has found that 80,000 people living in the area have more money going out than coming in every month.

The worrying trend of negative budgets – where people’s expenditure on basic bills like energy, housing and food exceeds their income – is a growing problem in the county.

As falling living standards continue to push people’s finances to the brink, the new analysis from Citizens Advice Devon found energy costs and housing are the key costs swallowing up people’s income, pushing many into the red. This means more and more people in this situation are likely to fall further into a spiral of debt.

Citizens Advice Devon’s Chair, Edwina Bradshaw, said:

“What was once a rarity for Citizens Advice services in Devon  – seeing people come to us in a negative budget – has sadly now become the new normal for our advisers

“Getting people out of the red and into the black is what we excel in. But we can’t tackle a challenge of this scale alone. 

“People are living on empty, cutting back their spending to unsafe levels just to get by. This cannot continue. 

“With living standards falling, we need politicians from all sides in Devon to get serious about addressing the issue head on.”

With a general election looming, Citizens Advice Devon’s research also found more than half of voters in all Devon, Plymouth and Torbay constituencies said the cost of living, or living standards, was one of the most important issues in determining how they will vote while more than three-quarters said that negative budgets are an important issue.

Constituency Negative budget rate Number of people in negative budget
South Devon 6.45% 5,850
South West Devon 4.32% 4,190
Exeter 7.46% 7,586
Exmouth and Exeter East 5.16% 5,156
Torbay 7.48% 7,809
Tiverton and Minehead 5.92% 5,403
Honiton and Sidmouth 6.49% 5,949
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport 9.09% 9,145
Plymouth Moor View 8.09% 8,688
Torridge and Tavistock 5.55% 5,297
North Devon 5.81% 5,729
Central Devon 4.41% 4,108
Newton Abbot 5.58% 5,209


  1. Constituency polling data
Constituency % said cost of living or living standards was one of the most important issues in determining how they will vote. % said that negative budgets are an important issue.
South Devon 54.39% 78.51%
South West Devon 54.70% 81.02%
Exeter 61.81% 82.5%
Exmouth and Exeter East 55.14% 79.07%
Torbay 56.65% 78.68%
Tiverton and Minehead 54.29% 81.15%
Honiton and Sidmouth 53.32% 82.31%
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport 65.80% 78.96%
Plymouth Moor View 64.07% 78.51%
North Devon 5.55% 79.82%
Torridge and Tavistock 51.49% 79.36%
Central Devon 53.05% 79.17%
Newton Abbot 57.65% 81.37%


The picture locally mirrors what others across Britain are experiencing. Five million people are now in a negative budget – including 1.5m children – with an additional two million people cutting back their spending to unsafe levels in order to not slip into the same situation. 

Citizens Advice found that in the top 50 marginal seats in the upcoming election, an average of 62% of people say the cost of living, or living standards, will be important in how they vote. 

Over the course of the coming financial year, unless incomes go up or costs come down, households in a negative budget will face an average shortfall in their budget of more than £4,200 each.


A truly valuable service. My advisor was extremely helpful and reassuring. Thank you.

Deborah – December 2023

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