Council defends use of bailiffs after charity probe

Amber Valley Borough Council has defended its use of bailiffs to collect bad debts, after a charity claimed that some local councils were using them to an “excessive” extent.

According to the Money Advice Trust, local councils across Brtiain have called in bailiffs 1.8m times in the last year to collect debts on their behalf.

The figure comes after the debt advice charity submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 374 local authorities in England and Wales. Their findings were reported by the BBC this week.

In the wake of the report Amber Valley Borough Councilreleased a statement this week clarifying their own use of bailiffs.

According to the council there are 55,300 Council Tax dwellings and 3,700 Business Rate properties in the borough, and an average of 1,600 council tax and 130 business rates cases are passed to the bailiff each year.

The BBC said some local authorities pass almost 50 per cent of their total caseload to the bailiffs. However, a spokesman for Amber Valley said its equivalent percentage is under three per cent for council tax and around 3.5 per cent for business rates.

The authority’s Revenues Collection Manager, Martin Hendy said: “We always try and make arrangements to discharge balances rather than enforce payment. After court hearings bailiffs can be sent to properties with the legal power to seize items which can be sold to cover the debts. However, sending in the bailiff is the last resort.

“If anyone has a problem paying their Council Tax we would ask them to talk to us as soon as possible as they may be entitled to a reduction in their bill, for example, through Council Tax Support.

“The council may also be able to help by re-scheduling payments. We would appeal to anyone struggling to pay not to ignore the bill completely.”