Local authorities ‘too swift to turn to bailiffs’

Last year witnessed 1.8 million cases of debt referrals to bailiffs by local authorities across England and Wales, figures collated by the Money Advic…

Last year witnessed 1.8 million cases of debt referrals to bailiffs by local authorities across England and Wales, figures collated by the Money Advice Trust have revealed.

According to the organisation's findings, Birmingham City Council was shown to have referred the largest number of debts to bailiffs (on 82,329 occasions) in 2013, accounting for 17 per cent of properties in the city.

However, due to the large size of the Birmingham conurbation – it is England's second largest city – the council was far from being the most avid user of debt collection services, as the London Borough of Newham took this crown.

With 55,562 debt referrals in the last year, Newham officials referred 50 per cent of all properties in its area in this manner.

Indeed, London's councils proved exceedingly swift to resort to this form of debt collection in 2013, with all of the top ten councils for bailiff referrals as a percentage of total properties being found in the capital.

Overall, the Money Advice Trust revealed that during the whole of 2013, councils across England and Wales carried out the equivalent of 5,013 bailiff referrals per day.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: "These figures make clear that something has to change. It is not economically or socially responsible for local authorities to continue to use bailiffs so frequently.

"Local authorities seem to be assuming that anyone not paying debts is a 'won't pay', rather than a 'can't pay'. In today's economy, with real incomes having fallen consistently for many years, more and more people are falling into the 'can't pay' bracket."

She added that sending in bailiffs can be deeply harmful both financially and psychologically for individuals currently struggling to manage their money and therefore councils should be more inclined to open a dialogue with those in arrears on their payments, rather than using debt collection agencies that could actually make the problem more difficult to resolve.

Posted by James Francis

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