Councils in England and Wales called in bailiffs to collect unpaid debts on more than two million occasions last year.
Enforcement agents, more commonly known as bailiffs, were most frequently sent to collect council tax arrears, but that they were also used to collect unpaid parking fines, unpaid business rates and overpaid housing benefit.
With bailiffs called in on 2.3 million occasions, the use of ‘last resort’ enforcement action by councils has increased 14% compared with two years ago.
The Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline has urged the government to do more to help vulnerable people in debt.
Joanna Elson, 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 of course 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.”
She added: “Bailiff action should only ever be used as a last resort, and can be avoided by early intervention.”
Not just councils
Separate figures show that that more legal action is being taken against consumers who don’t pay their debts.
Figures published in the Financial Times show that 910,345 County Court Judgements (CCJs) were filed in the nine months to the end of September, representing a 34% increase on the same period in 2016.
At the onset of the financial crisis, only 827,000 CCJs were filed in 2008, suggesting that creditors are more likely to turn to litigation to reclaim unpaid debts.
Umbrella Accountants Licensed Insolvency Practitioner Thomas Fox said: “More litigation and enforcement action from councils and private companies is symptomatic of Britain’s burgeoning debt crisis. Higher borrowing through credit cards, overdrafts and car loans coupled with limp growth in real incomes is a concern for many families.
“It may also show that councils and debt collection agencies are willing to behave more aggressively to collect past debts. If you are in debt, you should be aware that you may find it harder to borrow in future if you are the subject of a CCJ or bailiff action because this acts as a red flag to other lenders.”
There are options to help you combat your debt problems. Speak to a member of the Umbrella debt support team today. Call: 0800 611 8888.
A quick guide to dealing with bailiffs