William Eichler 01 August 2018

Council plans to phase out use of bailiffs

Bristol City Council is planning on phasing out the use of enforcement agents to collect unpaid debts.

The council currently loses £15m in unpaid council tax each year — 3% of what is owed.

However, Cllr Craig Cheney, the cabinet member for finance and governance, said the use enforcement agents to collect debt was an ‘imperfect system’ which puts ‘unfair’ pressure on struggling families.

The council plans to adopt an approach which aims instead to provide advice to those with money problems.

‘As a child my family struggled with money problems that were never helped by the extra pressures put on us by the additional costs that come with enforcement action,’ said Cllr Cheney.

‘We are looking at ways in which we can support those who have these troubles by signposting them to advice and information services early.’

‘We are already someway along that journey and have seen our levels of debt collection rise whilst our use of enforcement agents has decreased,’ he continued.

‘Now we want to explore how we take those next steps to ensure the use of agents is kept as an absolute last resort in the recovery of council debt.’

A report from the Treasury Committee recently warned the ‘overzealous and uncompromising’ collection of debt by local councils is driving vulnerable people into further financial difficulty.

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