New signs of a deep contraction in the British economy emerged yesterday with further evidence that householders have cut retail spending and started to reduce debt.

Bank of England figures showed that property-owners paid a record £5.7bn off their mortgages in the three months to September - the largest figure since the 1970s and more than double the £2bn repaid in the second quarter. It is only the second time in almost ten years that consumers have injected cash into their mortgage debt rather than increase their secured borrowing levels.

At the start of last year, they were taking out more than £13bn to pay for holidays, shopping and luxury items. The change underscores the end of a decade-long borrowing binge driven by soaring property prices.

The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent