Charities Highlight Growing Use of Bailiffs in Chasing Council Tax Debts

May 17, 2016

Local councils around the UK are increasingly relying on the services of bailiffs to pursue debts relating to non-payment of council taxes.

That’s according to a pair of charity groups who have warned that one of the consequences of the current trend is that many thousands of financially vulnerable British households are now being pursued consistently for council tax payments they cannot afford to make.

StepChange, one of the UK’s foremost debt help charities, has also argued that the increased use of bailiffs to pursue council tax debts is leading many people around the country to make poor financial and debt management decisions that they later come to regret.

“We know that often the default position of councils is to aggressively pursue arrears through the court process and by instructing bailiffs. It may come as a surprise to people that public bodies are more aggressive in pursuing debts than many private companies,” said Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange.

“This counterproductive approach needs to stop immediately and be replaced with one that is fairer and more constructive. It is up to both central and local government to implement systems that both incentivise affordable repayment and support those in financial difficulty”.

Figures compiled by the Money Advice Trust suggest that there were as many as 2.1 million debts passed to bailiffs by local authorities over the course of the year 2014/15.

Of those 2.1 million cases, it is understood that roughly 1.27 million related specifically to council tax debts, with these arrears increasingly being pursued by what are officially referred to as ‘enforcement agents’.

The Money Advice Trust has said that local authorities are now far too quick to resort to the use of bailiffs.

Analysis of StepChange’s figures suggests that a majority of people who contact their local councils to discuss their difficulties in paying their debts are subsequently threatened with court action.

According to the charity, only 13 per cent of people who explain to their local authorities that they’re struggling to pay their debts were encouraged to seek third party advice on the matter.

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