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Burnley bailiff service faces possible axe
BURNLEY could be set to become the last local authority in Lancashire to ditch its own bailiff service.
Last year the borough council's own enforcement team dealt with 2,252 debtors and brought in £50,000 through collection services.
But new legislation is being brought in by Whitehall to regulate the industry, with even the term bailiff being substituted for ‘enforcement agent’'.
And town hall bosses have taken the opportunity to review their own arrangements, ahead of the new Tribunal, Courts and Enforcement Act coming into operation.
The new laws are said to be designed to convince debtors to 'comply' at an earlier stage in the proceedings, before goods need to be seized.
Councillors have been told that larger enforcement agencies would be better equipped to follow up inquiries outside normal office hours. Caroline Lee, the council's head of benefits and revenues, said in a report: “There is an argument that the council, in carrying out this work alongside a wider range of revenues and benefits work, is too small to provide this service economically and efficiently in isolation.
"Debtors may benefit from larger organisations providing an extensive service aimed at reducing overall the volume of enforcement action carried out while maintaining the level of debts recovered.”
Extra technology and staffing resources would be needed to keep the service 'in-house', the borough's resources committee has heard.
Balanced against the projected income from enforcement agent operations, this would leave an £18,708 surplus. However, if the contract was given to an external company, while income may be lost, staffing costs would drop, leaving a net saving of £39,799.
Currently external bailiffs are used for business rate and out-of-area cases, with council tax debts still dealt with by borough officers.
Councillors will be asked to give their recommendation when the resources committee meets tomorrow
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