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      I wrote to all his creditors asking for supporting documents and not one could provide any material that would allow them to enforce the debt.
       
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Should councils scrap bailiffs and bring council tax enforcement in-house?


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A most interesting story appears on SCOOP today that is worthy of it's own thread.

 

The story is from Dukes Bailiffs and concerns the rumours in the industry that many local authorities are looking at the financial advantage of moving council tax enforcement in house.

 

The article certainly appears to show that enforcement companies are concerned at such a prospect.

 

 

http://dukescouncil.co.uk/2014/08/27/council-enforcement-policy/

 

 

http://www.scoop.it/t/lacef-news

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The article from Colin Naylor (Dukes Bailiffs) in full:

 

Should Councils bring enforcement in-house?

 

There was a time when all councils were responsible for collecting their own debts, and it seems that many of them may be changing council enforcement policy and once again be considering taking debt collection into their own hands. The rethink has, at least in part, been sparked by certain aspects of The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013, but the risks and rewards of such action are much more complex than they might seem.

 

There appear to be two main arguments driving the call for in-house Enforcement Agents at local councils. The first is that councils want to make allowances for debtors where possible, ensuring that people are not pursued for debts which they cannot pay, or were not aware of.

 

Laudable Aim

 

This is certainly a laudable aim, and one which follows the spirit behind the government’s 2013 consultation on aggressive bailiffs. However, with the new regulatory changes, practices are already improving in the sector. Government guidance on good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears dictates a strict framework in which the council and bailiffs must operate, before taking enforcement steps. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations also demand compliance with strict standards, such as giving at least seven days notice before attempting to take control of a debtor’s goods.

 

What’s more, we at Dukes Bailiffs consider ourselves among the growing number of ethical bailiffs, all of whom are working on ensuring that debtor circumstances are taken into account wherever possible.

 

The second argument is that the new, transparent fees for enforcement action are too high. By bringing enforcement in-house, the argument goes, councils will be able to discount fees in order to make allowances for individual debtor circumstances.

 

Again, this is a policy that merits consideration. Whether debtors who struggle to make their payments should face additional charges for visits or not is a valid question, and one that divided respondents to the government consultation last year.

 

Certainly many enforcement agents aim to avoid rising charges by only using home visits as a last resort, and this can perhaps be further encouraged. Although the money saved by postponing these visits must be balanced against the cost of delayed payments, which can easily accumulate, and end up being paid by those who pay their bills promptly.

 

Conflict of Interest

 

It is also worth considering how councils attempting to bring debt collection in-house risk a serious conflict of interest; councils would certainly have no incentive to collect debts promptly if they earned fees from late payment. The uproar over the £594m profit councils made from parking charges stands as a key example here, for it’s hard to imagine that public response would be any different to sums earned from bailiff fees, however flexible they were.

 

Finally, there’s the question of whether councils are even realistically equipped to take on the mammoth task of enforcement work, especially when you consider that 1.8 million debt cases were referred to bailiffs between August 2012 and August 2013. With many councils facing tight budgets, we have to wonder whether they can really sacrifice the savings that outsourcing the work has brought over the last decade, and invest in the systems and manpower required to develop an ethical bailiff practice in-house.

 

What’s your Council Enforcement Policy?

 

Overall, Dukes Bailiffs believe there are far more arguments for councils to continue using specialist enforcement agents; this is one case where professional agencies are far better equipped to provide efficient debt recovery, at minimum cost and effort to councils.

 

But as an Enforcement Company, we would say that, wouldn’t we? What’s your council enforcement policy? Is enforcement better off with specialist providers? Haven’t Councils got enough on their plate already? Or is it time enforcement became fully integrated with collection under one roof?

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If the story has any 'substance' I would expect to have found many more council employees applying for certification. Having checked with the Ministry of Justice today it would seem that there are less than 70 employees holding bailiff certificates and most of these have been certificated for a long time.

 

Capita have only 6 of their staff holding bailiff certificates.

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It's not so long ago (maybe 5 -6 years) that my local council had it's own in house enforcement team - the guy who had responsibility for our area was extremely pleasant and easy to deal with - one of my elderly neighbours got in a mess with council tax and asked me to be present when he came to visit. Situation was soon sorted amicably at a rate she could afford. I do know there have been massive complaints about Jacobs Bailiffs being used by the council nowadays, but there is still an enforcement team who will take the debt back from the bailiff company and come to an arrangement (helped an employee to do just that a couple of months ago).

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I am still baffled as to why the Government thinks adding over 300 quid in fees will help people on min wage and or benefits will make bailiffs less aggresive/thuggish, look at council tax many were lying and behaving potentially unlawfully/illegaly just to collect a maximum of 42 quid!!!!

 

And we are going to see them be less aggresive now its 300 plus and all goes to pay their fees first?

 

If I had a beard it would be itching.

 

There must surely be angles of legal attack via the EU Courts making such vast profits via threats of prison for private corporations.

 

At the very least these charges are vastly disproportionate esp as someone with only 100 arrears ends up paying 4 times that in fees.

 

Of course they should, with all new faces. The government can bring in as many new regulations they like, but until they are rid of the thugs doing and saying whatever they like, nothing will change.

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I am still baffled as to why the Government thinks adding over 300 quid in fees will help people on min wage and or benefits will make bailiffs less aggresive/thuggish, look at council tax many were lying and behaving potentially unlawfully/illegaly just to collect a maximum of 42 quid!!!!

 

And we are going to see them be less aggresive now its 300 plus and all goes to pay their fees first?

 

If I had a beard it would be itching.

 

There must surely be angles of legal attack via the EU Courts making such vast profits via threats of prison for private corporations.

 

At the very least these charges are vastly disproportionate esp as someone with only 100 arrears ends up paying 4 times that in fees.

 

 

If they can't afford the debt, the fees only make things much much worse. It is anathema that people profit from thuggery and bringing misery to people already desperate.

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The bailiff: A 12th Century solution re-branded as Enforcement Agents for the 21st Century to seize and sell debtors goods as before Oh so Dickensian!

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Plus the amount charged for the actual amount of 'work' (for want of a better word) is appalling. £75 for sending a letter? £235 for knocking on your door? And don't give me the argument about those fees covering any other visits required, setting up of payment plans blah blah blah.

 

It's still £75 for one letter even if no payment plan is arranged or needed. It's still £235 if only 1 visit is needed. And let's not forget that some are arguing that these fees must be paid, that you are legally required to pay them, implying this is the only private trade that has a guaranteed revenue stream even if they collect nothing.

 

As far as I'm concerned, a bailiff is no different from a window cleaner. If I don't pay him, what's he going to do? And I certainly wouldn't pay him for work he hasn't done.

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It is a sad truth (and one I learned the hard way), that burying your head in the sand because you haven't got the money to pay the bill will only serve to increase it.

 

Anyone with financial difficulties is far better engaging with the council or the EA at the very earliest opportunity to try to get a sensible, mutually agreeable, repayment plan in place. It is quite common for councils to spread the costs owing over a full financial year, and occasionally beyond.

 

Burying one's head will only lead to further misery and difficulties. I appreciate, having been in this position, how hard it is when debts are piling up around your ears and everyone is asking for money you haven't got to phone a council and talk. It is, however, by far the best thing you can do. Where genuine financial hardship can be proved, councils tend to be pretty understanding.

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It would help the councils reduce their risk if they did not keep screwing up their own computer systems. In my case when I moved they (for some unaccountable reason) gave me a new account number and didn't tell me that for 6 weeks, thereby creating a debt that did not need to be created!

 

I really think that the legislation surrounding council tax collections needs to be re-written, taking away the 'if you don't pay the whole amount is due' section and NOT allowing councils to use court for any amount under £100 - in fact how about starting a campaign that court CANNOT be used for ANY alleged debt under £100.

 

The more I think about the 'credit crunch' the more I believe that the council tax legislation forced a lot of people to take out loans to repay council tax and then got into further debt.

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Coughdrop, not sure where you are based but in my part of London the local council will NOT engage with you UNTIL they have a liability order for the smallest of late payments on the council tax account.

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Having read many a post lately why are the EA's insisting that the whole balance is due on first visit?

 

Is this written into the new regulations? NO!!

 

So why are they always insisting this is paid on the first visit?

 

Surely the debt regulations state that the people that collect debts are supposed to help those that cannot pay with an easier way to pay.

 

Where is it in the new regulations that the way other debts that are pursued cannot these also be used in these situations as well?

 

Just a thought here that's all

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A nice easy bit of Council Tax legislation for the UKIP mob to consider should they come into power....put as simply as possible for avoidance of doubt, interpretation etc

 

All councils must NOT issue liability orders UNTIL 9 months of the CURRENT FINANCIAL YEAR have passed and NO contact or offer of payment is made by constituents.

 

BEFORE a liability order is issued a CT/HB check must be conducted to ensure the person liable is receiving the correct level of support.

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A nice easy bit of Council Tax legislation for the UKIP mob to consider should they come into power....put as simply as possible for avoidance of doubt, interpretation etc

 

All councils must NOT issue liability orders UNTIL 9 months of the CURRENT FINANCIAL YEAR have passed and NO contact or offer of payment is made by constituents.

 

BEFORE a liability order is issued a CT/HB check must be conducted to ensure the person liable is receiving the correct level of support.

 

I would support that. Enforcement is an egregious practice in this day and age when attachments to income streams at a rate the debtor can afford are more sensible, what is crazy is that a council house can be in a high band, and the low income families CTax bill is more than the rent in some cases. It takes no account of ability to afford or pay, then they add loadsa fees to line a parasitic bailiff companies bottom line.

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The bailiff: A 12th Century solution re-branded as Enforcement Agents for the 21st Century to seize and sell debtors goods as before Oh so Dickensian!

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