Town halls have been accused of using “bully boy” debt collection tactics, as it emerged bailiffs are used to recover unpaid council taxes and parking fines in more than two million cases a year.
Bailiffs are used as a last resort, insist local authorities
The figures, released to campaign group Big Brother Watch under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that almost 5,500 cases a day are passed to debt recovery agencies by councils in England, Scotland and Wales.
Two Scottish councils topped the list of most frequent bailiff users, with both the City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City Council calling in debt recovery teams more than 280,000 times between 2007/08 and 2009/10.
Director of Big Brother Watch Daniel Hamilton said: “The coalition Government must act now to end the culture of bully-boy debt collection which has taken hold in town halls across the country.
“Sending in bailiffs to recover debts should always be the absolute last resort.
Top 10 Councils Using Bailiffs Between 2007/08 And 2009/10
- :: City of Edinburgh: 287,315 cases
:: Glasgow City: 281,718
:: Birmingham: 223,810
:: Liverpool: 167,039
:: Manchester: 149,635
:: Newham: 131,542
:: Leeds: 124,379
:: Barnet: 114,011
:: Fife: 91,423
:: Redbridge: 82,718
- War Crimes
“The fact local councils have passed more than six million cases to bailiffs for matters as trivial as the late payment of council taxes and parking fines is truly shocking.
“In many cases, bailiffs are a law unto themselves, barging their way into people’s homes, intimidating vulnerable members of the public and imposing rip-off charges.”
David Sparks, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, said about £530 million of council tax went unpaid each year.
“Councils have a duty to the vast majority of residents who pay their taxes to pursue the small number of individuals who don’t,” he said.
“There is nothing trivial about collecting money which funds the vital frontline services residents need and want.”
He went on: “Calling in the bailiffs is very much a last resort.
“People struggling to pay bills are given as much leeway as possible and, as a matter of course, councils contact people a number of times before starting legal proceeding