THE number of people in Basildon who fear they are at risk of losing their homes has shot up by 40 per cent.

Basildon Council reported a sharp rise in people calling them, over fears they could be made homeless.

A total of 1,100 residents contacted the council's housing advice team in the last three months, compared with 800 people in the final three months of last year - a shocking 40 per cent increase.

Residents' concerns ranged from paying bills, to credit card debts and mortgage repayments.

Tony Ball, councillor responsible for housing strategy, said: "This is a concern for many residents and the council. The credit crunch has forced a lot of people to overstretch themselves.

"We offer housing advice to anyone who gets into trouble and I would advise people not to bury their heads in the sand.

"We also have a duty to help people who are homeless, if it comes to that, so they don't have to sleep on the streets."

The council offers a range of support, to people who fear they may lose their homes.

This includes negotiating with landlords and mortgage companies, on behalf of people struggling to keep up payments.

The council also advises homeowners on any benefits they may be entitled to, or alternative housing options open to them, such as renting and shared ownership.

Mo Slade, housing choices manager for Basildon Council, said: "The housing advice team is the first port of call for anyone who fears they could be made homeless.

"We would urge anyone who is concerned about losing their home to contact us, to find out what support is available."

Anyone worried about losing their home can call the council's Housing Assessment Line on 01268 294342.