Bailiffs sent in to deal with thousands of debts in Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere

BAILIFFS have been called in to collect debts on thousands of occasions by Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere councils.

Figures obtained by campaign group Big Brother Watch, which wants to rein in state interference in people’s lives, show the total number of cases passed to debt recovery agencies and those for cases of underpaid council tax.

The statistics show that between 2007 and 2010, Welwyn Hatfield Council passed a total of 10,452 cases to third-party debt recovery agencies such as bailiffs.

And they also show the council passed on 9,361 council tax debts and 1,091 unpaid parking fines.

The figures for Hertsmere show that between 2007 and 2010 the authority passed a total of 10,210 cases to third-party debt recovery agencies such as bailiffs.

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And they also show the council passed on 2,955 unpaid parking fine debts.

Commenting on the figures, Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Sending in bailiffs to recover debts should always be the absolute last resort.

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“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.”

He added: “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.”

A council spokeswoman told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We have an obligation to take firm, effective recovery action against people who don’t pay their council tax bills or penalty charge notices.

“In some cases we are left with no alternative but to take bailiff action.”

She added: “Not only do we have a legal obligation to do this, but we also have an obligation to the vast majority who do pay their council tax and parking fines to recoup that debt.

“In these times of severe financial restraint, we’re sure residents would expect us to gather in this revenue and use it to keep council tax bills down in future years, and protect frontline services.”

The civil liberties group’s figures show that nationally nearly six million cases were passed to third-party debt recovery agencies such as bailiffs for the late payment of council taxes and parking fines.

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