Concerns Raised Over Councils’ Use of Bailiffs to Collect Debt

Photo by Vincent Li

A charity has discovered that councils in England and Wales called in bailiffs to collect debts on over two million times in 2016.

The Money Advice Trust said that council tax arrears accounted for almost 6 out of the 10 of the cases that were sent to bailiffs by local authorities from the period between 2016 and 2017

The Trust, which operates National Debtline, said that more could be done for those who are vulnerable to debt.

The association representing councils said that they had a duty to collect taxes.

The “Stop the Knock” report by the Money Advice Trust discovered that enforcement agents who are commonly known as bailiffs were utilised to run after council tax arrears on 1.38 million occasions out of the 2.3 million cases.

The report discovered that they were also utilised on 810,000 occasions for parking fines that were unpaid, 86,000 times for business rates that were not paid, and on 50,000 occasions to recover housing benefits that were overpaid.

The use of bailiffs had grown by 14% compared with two years ago when the charity initiated a similar research.

However, it stated that there had been widespread improvement regarding the way that councils used this last resort.
Its primary concern was in the utilisation of bailiffs by smaller councils.

The chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, Joanna Elson, stated: “The growing use of bailiffs to collect debts by many local authorities is deeply troubling.

(Continued on the next page)