The people of Romford in east London borrowed more money via payday loans in 2018 than the entire population of Leeds, according to official data.
A study based on the figures named Birmingham as “the payday loan capital of the UK”, with its residents borrowing a total of £37m in 2018 as their personal finances came under pressure.
But the data showed that in terms of population size, Romford and Croydon, south London, were both contenders for the title.
Romford’s residents took out 55,299 payday loans in 2018, totalling just over £15m in value. In Leeds there were just over 63,000 loans worth at total of £14.7m.
Leeds has a population of 750,000, according to last census in 2011, while a number of different figures are given for Romford, though the one most commonly used is 95,894.
The data was obtained from the Financial Conduct Authority.
In recent years millions of people have turned to the high-cost payday loans to help pay their rent or mortgage, deal with an unexpected emergency or even afford their weekly food shop.
The best-known player, Wonga, collapsed in 2018 after years of controversy and a clampdown on the sector, but there are a number of other firms still plying for trade. One of the biggest is QuickQuid, which states that it charges a representative rate of 1,294.1% APR.
The FCA data was obtained via a freedom of information request by Wagestream, an app used by some employers that allows employees to receive a percentage of their wages as they are earned in return for a fee.
It shows that residents of Birmingham borrowed £37.1m across 146,000 payday loans in 2018, well ahead of second-placed Manchester, with £28.6m across 124,000 loans, and Sheffield, with £23.8m across 100,000 loans. Glasgow and Newcastle were in fourth and fifth place.
But the data counts each London borough as a separate entity so if they were all added together, the capital would top the table by a large margin.
The analysis showed that when the figures were weighted for population density, Croydon borrowed the most money “per capita” last year: £29.15 for every resident. About 42,600 loans with a total value of £11.8m were taken out.
Wagestream said the figures revealed “Britain’s ongoing dependency on payday loans”, which can carry an interest rates of up to 1,500% APR compared with 22.8% for a typical credit card.
The largest loans on average were secured in Ilford, east London, where the average was £301.73.
The cost of payday loans is capped under rules that limit how much people can be charged in terms of interest and fees. The cap means people will never pay back more than twice what they initially borrowed.
Top 20 locations ranked by total amount loaned in 2018
Newcastle upon Tyne £23,453,937
Top five locations by amount loaned per capita in 2018
Croydon 42,639 loans, £29.15
Romford 55,299 loans, £29.04
Dartford 41,931 loans, £26.26
Southall 35,730 loans, £26.03
Northampton 66,784 loans, £25.74
Source: FCA data/Wagestream