Laura Sharman 18 June 2013

Council told to stop ‘heavy-handed’ use of bailiffs

Councils have been warned to stop the ‘heavy-handed’ use of bailiffs to collect unpaid council tax and parking penalties, in a new best practice guide.

Communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has launched new guidelines saying councils should not collect ‘contractual kickbacks’ from bailiffs and must protect residents from excessive fees and phantom visits.

Pickles said: ‘It is unacceptable for councils to employ burly bailiffs with heavy-handed tactics like kicking down doors, making phantom visits or charging excessive fees – it is unfair and damages a council’s standing in the community.

Eric Pickles Eric Pickles has told councils to tackle the behaviour of bailiffs.

‘Today our new guidance is crystal clear: it is time to stop the dodgy practices where town halls collect contractual kickbacks from bailiffs that will do almost anything to make money.’

Figures from Citizens Advice found there has been a 38% increases in complaints about bailiffs over the five years. The five biggest bailiff companies earn a combined revenue in excess of £60m.

The guidelines also says:

· Councils should terminate contracts if bailiffs make phantom visits to increase fees
· Councils should not receive payment from the use of bailiffs
· Councils remain responsible for the action of bailiffs they have contracted
· Councils should publish their standard scale of fees on their websites

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