Increase in use of bailiffs among councils in Cambridgeshire to collect tax debts

PUBLISHED: 11:23 28 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 28 December 2017

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House

Archant

The number of times bailiffs have been used to collect outstanding council tax debts in the last financial year has increased significantly across Cambridgeshire.

The number of times bailiffs have been used to collect outstanding council tax debts in the last financial year has increased significantly across Cambridgeshire.

National figures, produced by the Money Advice Trust, revealed that councils had used bailiffs on 1.38million occasions in 2016/17 to collect unpaid council tax.

In Cambridgeshire, the figure was 7,000 times in the last 12 months.

Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) referred 2,864 outstanding debts to bailiffs in 2016/17 - an increase of four per cent on the previous year.

The figures for neighbouring councils had increased by 19 per cent (East Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City) and four per cent for South Cambridgeshire on the previous year.

In a statement to The Hunts Post, Huntingdonshire District Council urged people to contact them at an early stage if they were in financial difficulty.

“Council tax is an important source of income used to provide services and if people do not pay what is due, it can impact on the services provided to others,” said Councillor Jonathan Gray, executive councillor for strategic resources at HDC.

“We are a growing district, so the number of times bailiffs have to be used is bound to rise. We acknowledge that some people may have difficulty in paying so we would encourage them to contact us at the earliest opportunity so we can work together to set a payment plan that is reasonable and affordable.

“We review each case individually prior to making the decision to refer it to enforcement agents and look at all the powers available to ensure we are using the most appropriate method of recovery.”

Joanna Elson, the chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “The growing use of bailiffs to collect debts by many local authorities is deeply troubling. Councils are under enormous financial pressure, and they need to recover what they are owed in order to fund vital services.

“However, many councils are far too quick to turn to bailiff action – which we know can seriously harm the wellbeing of residents who are often already in vulnerable situations. It can also push people even further into debt.

“Bailiff action should only ever be used as a last resort, and can be avoided by early intervention, making sure residents get the free debt advice they need, and agreeing repayment arrangements that are affordable and sustainable.”

For advice about budgeting and dealing with debts, contact Citizens Advice Rural Cambs on 0344 245 1292.

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