Steve Beasant

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Great Grimsby and Councillor for the East Marsh Learn more

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Concerns council tax debts are passed to bailiffs too quickly

by Steve Beasant on 22 August, 2013

Citizens Advice has raised concerns that some councils are passing debts to bailiffs too quickly and aren’t doing enough to support those who are struggling to pay.  New figures released today from the Money Advice Trust reveal local authorities referred 1.8 million debts to bailiffs in 12 months.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“I’m concerned that in some cases councils are too quick to pass debts to bailiffs.  Half of people we help with bailiffs problems are families with children.  A bailiff turning up at the doorstep of your home is frightening.

“Local authorities have a duty to protect and support the people who live in their communities.  They need to recognise the current squeeze on household finances. If a family is struggling to pay their council tax bill it is quite likely they are battling other bills too.  It should be an alarm bell for the authority that people need help.

“The move from council tax benefits to a localised support scheme means fewer people who are on a financial knife-edge will get help with their bills, and puts more people at risk of bailiff action.

“I want councils to try to avoid the use of bailiffs by supporting those who are struggling.  Offering a different day to pay, sorting out suitable repayment plans and putting them in touch with debt charities like ourselves could keep the bailiffs at bay.”

Citizens Advice is calling on councils to sign up to its good practice protocol on council tax debts. The protocol includes commitments such as promoting help that’s available to those who are struggling and highlighting different payment date options for council tax payers so they can budget more effectively.

Figures released last week from Citizens Advice found 1 in 5 people who have a bailiff problem are working parents.

A third of the 60,000 bailiff problems Citizens Advice helped with between April 2012 and March 2013 were for council tax debts.

Evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux has found private bailiffs frequently overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive and illegal fees and charges.

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