Anger as use of bailiffs to enforce council tax soars in Welwyn Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 11:04 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 11:15 20 February 2015

Steve Roberts

Steve Roberts

Archant

Use of bailiffs to enforce council debts soared by nearly a third in Welwyn Hatfield last year, official figures reveal.

Between April and December 2014, the borough council used bailiffs to enforce debts 5,452 times, up 32.1 per cent from the same months in 2013.

Most of the debts enforced were unpaid council tax, but some were for business rates.

Bailiffs are allowed to confiscate items such as televisions to sell, and the debts are increased, sometimes by hundreds of pounds, to pay their fees.

Labour group deputy leader Steve Roberts told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “I have been asking questions about the use of bailiffs for almost a year now.

“At the first meeting I was told that we hardly used bailiffs, but this was clearly not the case.

“As a council, while we are sitting on in excess of £56 million in cash reserves we should consider maybe going into partnership with a social lender such as Herts Credit Union where defaults are extremely low.

“This would be a far better way of recovering money and at the same time earn a better return than current investments.”

A council spokeswoman responded: “Bailiffs are only used as an absolute last resort once all other options have been exhausted.

“There are many ways we can and do support residents who are struggling financially.

“A review of their circumstances, to see if they are eligible for council tax support, or able to make alternative payment arrangements, can be very useful.

“We also work closely with the Welwyn Hatfield Citizens Advice Bureau to help people access independent financial advice.

“We encourage anyone that is struggling to pay their bills to get in touch with us so they can access the wide variety of support available.”

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