BURNLEY Council is set to scrap its in-house bailiff system and use solely private firms to recover debts.

The move, which town hall bosses claim will save £40,000 a year, is set to be approved by councillors next week.

Burnley is currently the only authority in Lancashire which still employs its own bailiffs. Changes in the law, to be introduced in April, will see greater regulation of bailiffs.

The new legislation has been designed to improve the public’s perception of bailiffs, who will be re-branded as ‘enforcement agents’, and includes clearer information about fees, and rules about behaviour.

Caroline Lee, the council’s head of revenues and benefits, said: “Due to the changes in the way the bailiff service will be required to operate, the council is no longer in a position to offer this service with the level of investment and continual improvement that would be required to keep abreast of enforcement activity developments.

“The council would need to increase its own resources to effectively carry out this work following the changes and this is unrealistic given the current budgetary pressure it faces.”

Coun Mark Townsend, executive member for resources and performance management, said: “Specialist debt recovery companies have more resources, and are able to provide a service that better meets the requirements of the new rules.

“We will work with our new partners to make sure they operate in a way that’s acceptable to the council, so that debts are collected, but people are treated fairly, professionally and appropriately.

“I accept that people are finding finances tough in these difficult times, but the council is also under a duty to those that do pay their bills to recover money owed from those that don’t. We don’t call in bailiffs lightly.

“The council will continue to do all it can to work with debtors to find alternative ways of repaying before enforcement action is taken.”

Councillors will vote on the proposed changes on March 4.