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Bailiffs are 'over-used' in East Lancashire
BAILIFFS chased more than 17,500 debts for East Lancashire’s councils last year, new figures showed.
The Money Advice Trust collected data from every local authority in England and Wales and criticised councils for the ‘over-use’ of debt collection companies.
Trust bosses claimed 9,153 debts were referred to bailiffs last year by Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley councils.
They measured this against the total number of residential and commercial properties in each area to calculate a percentage.
The trust said five per cent of homes in Blackburn had bailiffs rapping on the door, compared to 12.3 per cent in Hyndburn and 1.5 per cent in the Ribble Valley.
Money Advice Trust’s chief executive Joanna Elson said: “Local authorities seem to be assuming that anyone not paying debts is a ‘won’t pay’ rather than a ‘can’t pay’. In today’s economy, with real incomes having fallen consistently for many years, more and more people are falling into the ‘can’t pay’ bracket. Sending the bailiffs in to collect these debts can be destructive – financially and psychologically.”
The trust’s data was labelled ‘spurious’ by leader of Hyndburn Council, Miles Parkinson, who said figures could not be accurate as some homes were chased for multiple debts rather than one debt per household, as the trust’s data suggested.
He said: “If people shirk one debt, they are likely to shirk more and several people in a household might be being chased for debts.
“Most people pay their dues and it would be unfair for them to suffer additional cuts because some people ignore their debt and expect the council to write it off.
“Debt should be chased and unfortunately, councils seem to be in the position where they are looked upon as somebody who does not need paying. Bailiffs are a last resort.
“We want to talk to people and make an arrangement for them to make incremental payments.”
Executive member for resources at Blackburn Council, Coun Andy Kay said: “Instructing bailiffs is the last option used by the council after other avenues have been exhausted.”
Burnley and Rossendale councils referred a total of 8,627 cases to the bailiffs.
Pendle Council did not provide information to the trust.