Credit card shoppers are paying off their bills at the fastest rate seen for close to six years, as fears grow over the UK's economic prospects, according to the Bank of England.
The Bank revealed that shoppers repaid £174m in July, a level not seen since August 2006, indicating a possible sea-change in attitudes to 'living on the never-never'.
The figures come as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) calls on the government to deliver "immediate and decisive action" in order to bring about long-term growth.
John Longworth, Director General of the BCC, said on Friday: "Since the election of the coalition government, the BCC has supported deficit reduction, and a relentless focus on creating the conditions for businesses to thrive. Two years on though, the UK economy is stagnating, with headwinds from a slowing global economy, difficulties in the Eurozone, pressure from domestic austerity measures, low business investment and volatile commodity prices all bearing down on our growth prospects.
"While many businesses out there are growing exports, seeking investment, and creating jobs, more needs to be done so the economy can move from a vicious cycle of stagnation to a virtuous cycle of higher growth and reduced borrowing. Companies now accept they are operating in a tougher and more uncertain environment, but they need an enterprise-friendly government with bold policies if they are to drive recovery.
"That's why we are adding new calls for immediate and decisive action to our existing recommendations for long-term growth.
"Politicians need to get some political backbone and show leadership. If they put Britain above politics, they will be rewarded for it in the long run. We need an economic action programme so that Britain can excel, and make its way in the world. We are a great country, as we demonstrated during the Olympics. We have the talent and the energy, but we need the political will to focus relentlessly on economic growth. It's not that nothing else matters, it's that without it, nothing else is possible."
On Thursday, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) predicted that the UK economy is set to return to growth by the end of 2012, and will 'pick up a little pace' next year.
The business lobbying group has forecast gross domestic product (GDP) growth of -0.3% in 2012 overall, notably lower than its previous prediction of +0.6%, following a poorer first half than had been expected and a slower rate of growth in the second half than predicted. In the third quarter, quarter-on-quarter growth is expected to be +0.6%, with -0.2% in the final quarter.
John Cridland, the Director-General of the CBI, said that euro area uncertainty, and the looming "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases in the US "will only add to the sense of unease during the coming months".
Anna Leach, the CBI's Head of Economic Analysis, added: "We expect the pressure on household incomes to continue to lift through the remainder of this year, as inflation falls further, and this should put the recovery on a slightly firmer footing next year."