THE number of people struggling to cope with payday loan debts has risen by more than 13,000 in the past year, figures show.

Debt charity StepChange said they dealt with 43,716 people in the first six months of this year, compared with 30,762 for the same period last year.

Last summer, concern about the effect the high-interest loans was having in Wirral caused the council to act.

Councillors agreed a Liberal Democrat call to block access to websites offering payday loans on all local authority public computers in libraries and other buildings.

New figures, showing the StepChange has handled more than £72m in debts in the first half of 2014, highlight the need for further action to ensure better protection for vulnerable people who might consider taking a loan, the charity said.

In July the Financial Conduct Authority announced proposals to introduce a cap on the fees and interest charged by payday lending firms in a bid to protect borrowers from escalating debts.

The proposals, which include default fees capped at £15 and a limit of 0.8% per day on interest on unpaid balances, should mean those who cannot repay on time will never have to pay back more in charges than the amount borrowed.

The latest clampdown on the industry by the FCA is due to come into force in January, subject to a consultation period.

StepChange is calling for a tougher total cost cap than 100% of the value of the loan as well as an obligation for lenders to have access to a database showing a borrower's financial situation - avoiding instances seen last year where thousands of people had taken out five or more payday loans.

The organisation also said there should be stricter limits on how much firms can profit from default fees, encouraging more responsible lending, and makes the case for the proposed default charge of £15 to be brought in line with the £12 default charges for credit cards.

Chief executive Mike O'Connor said more can be done to protect those facing serious money worries.

"Today's figures show that the payday market all too often fails to treat customers fairly, especially those in financial difficulty," he said.

"High-cost short-term credit is rarely the answer to financial difficulties. While the proposed price cap is a crucial step forward, there is still much work to be done to ensure that payday loans can no longer plunge people into a cycle of unsustainable borrowing and entrenched financial hardship.”