Pledge to reform council tax debt collection

woman looking concerned with bill in handPeople who fall behind with council tax payments will have greater protection from aggressive debt enforcement, under new plans to improve how councils collect arrears.

Following concerns expressed about the intimidating behaviour of some bailiffs, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has pledged to engage with charities, debt advice bodies and local councils to put a regulator in place to create a fairer, more efficient and compassionate debt recovery system.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, director and debt advice expert at the Money and Pensions Service, said: “One third of people seeking debt advice have council tax arrears, so it’s really important that people receive the right guidance and support to manage their finances.

“We look forward to working with the department to help them create a more progressive and efficient council tax debt collection system.”

The Taking Control campaign for bailiff reform, launched by debt and mental health organisations, highlights the negative impact that aggressive debt collection can have, and in its 2017 report [PDF], recommended that:

  • The bailiff industry should be independently regulated.
  • There should be a free, clear, transparent and accessible bailiff complaints procedure.
  • There should be a clear, simple and universally applicable procedure that allows people to apply to suspend action by bailiffs.
  • Bailiff fees should be restructured, so as to incentivise good practice.
  • Bailiffs should use a prescribed and consistent framework for agreeing affordable repayments.
  • There should be procedures in place to identify vulnerable people and protect them from enforcement.
  • Creditors should be required to act responsibly and demonstrably do more to collect debt before resorting to enforcement.

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