Councils Criticised for ‘Uncompromising and Over-zealous’ Pursuit of Debtors
July 26, 2018
Members of parliament in Westminster have issued strong criticism of local councils for the ways in which they are going about pursuing debtors for monies they owe.
The policies and means through which public authorities aim to recover their debts have been described as “worst in class” by members of a Treasury Committee at the House of Commons, which has been looking into some of the most fundamental problems faced by people struggling financially across the UK.
Debts to local authorities are most commonly accumulated in relation to council taxes and the parliamentary committee has highlighted these debts as a major source of problems and stress for households nationwide.
MPs said the approach of councils to recouping debts is often to pursue them “over-zealously” and “uncompromisingly”, and in ways which rely all too often on the use of sheriff officers.
“This approach risks driving the most financially vulnerable people into further difficulty,” the MPs said in their recently published report on these issues.
“The public sector should raise its standards to the level of industry best practice,” they added.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said in response: “MPs are right to acknowledge that government agencies and local authorities are worst in class for debt collection when they should be leading by example.
“Reforms in 2014 were introduced to protect people from unfair practices. It is clear these changes have failed.”
A variety of other recommendations relating to the problems faced by indebted Brits were also published by the Treasury Committee, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) urged to limit costs associated with credit of all kinds, including bank account overdraft facilities.
“The FCA’s cap on payday lenders has proven to be beneficial for consumers,” statements from the Westminster committee said.
“Earlier this year, the FCA published the outcome of its high-cost credit review, which includes proposals on overdraft fees, rent-to-own, home-collected credit, and catalogue credit and store cards – the FCA should move forward with these proposals urgently.”
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