Concerns Raised Over Councils’ Use of Bailiffs to Collect Debt

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“Councils are under enormous financial pressure, and they of course need to recover what they are owed in order to fund vital services. However, many councils are far too quick to turn to bailiff action.”

“It concerns us that for many people their local council is the organisation that will be the most aggressive in chasing them if they fall into financial difficulty.

“This will come as a surprise to many, but comes as no shock to those on the front line of debt advice who help people deal with these problems every day.

“We know that sending the bailiffs in can deepen debt problems, rather than solve them – and it can also have a severe impact on the wellbeing of people who are often already in a vulnerable situation.”

Elson said that, in doing so, people could be driven even further into debt.

The chief executive added: “Bailiff action should only ever be used as a last resort, and can be avoided by early intervention.”

Talking to local authorities, Elson said that bailiffs should “only be used as an absolutely last resort.”

See also: Bailiff powers when they visit your home

Around 50 councils had signed up to a protocol that is aimed at preventing those that are at risk of getting behind on principal payments.

The Trust wanted more councils to sign up to an official policy on ways to treat vulnerable residents and to completely exempt those who are the most vulnerable from bailiff action.

The Local Government Association, which represents the councils, said that those people experiencing difficulties should talk to their local authority to discuss options such as repayment plans.

Responding on the report of the Money Advice Trust on councils using bailiffs, the Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, Councillor Claire Kober, stated: “No council wants to ask people on the lowest incomes to pay more, but councils have a duty to their residents to collect taxes – these fund crucial services, such as caring for the elderly, protecting vulnerable children, keeping roads maintained and collecting bins.

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