Citizens Advice calls for better regulation of bailiff firms

24 Aug 18

A charity network has urged the government to crackdown on rogue bailiffs as households in the UK have fallen £19bn behind on essential bills.

Since government reforms to protect people from unfair practices by bailiffs in 2014, the charity Citizens Advice has reported a 24% rise in bailiff problems.

According to the charity, in 2017 it helped on average one person every three minutes with bailiff issues.

These included for monies owed to public and private organisations, such as a failure council tax and utilities bills.

Citizens Advice found that UK households owe £18.9bn to essential service providers and government in arrears, including £2.84bn owed to local authorities in council tax arrears.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Families are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can skyrocket through excessive enforcement fees.

“Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt.”

In April, the government announced a review into aggressive debt collection and Guy said it should use this to set up a independent bailiff regulator.

Guy also suggested that the government should measure annually the level of debt to government and essential service providers.

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “No council wants to have to debt collect from its residents, particularly from people on low incomes, but local authorities have a duty to their residents to collect taxes which fund essential services, such as protecting vulnerable children, caring for the elderly, collecting bins, and keeping roads maintained.

“It’s essential that vital services are protected and that these funds are collected.” 

Watts said the LGA is working with councils, the Centre for Credit and Money Advice Service to help improve local commissioning of financial support and debt advice.

In July, the Treasury said that public bodies were the “worst in class” when it comes to debt collection.  

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