Use of bailiffs by St Albans council goes up by a fifth; more than either Welwyn or North Herts councils
- Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media
Bailiffs were called in by St Albans council on nearly 3,000 occasions last year - 28 per cent more than the year before.
In 2016/17, St Albans council instructed bailiffs to collect debts from both individuals and businesses on 2,942 occasions.
According to the Money Advice Trust, that is an increase of 28 per cent from 2014/15.
Bailiffs were called in to handle 2,744 council tax cases, 186 business rates cases, and 12 commercial rates cases in 2016/17.
To compare, Welwyn Hatfield council instructed bailiffs to collect debts on 2,273 occasions in 2016/17.
This was a decrease of 68 per cent since 2014/15.
North Hertfordshire council (covering Hitchin and Letchworth) called in bailiffs to collect debts on 3,406 occasions in 2016/17.
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This is an increase of one per cent since 2014/15.
Deputy chief executive of St Albans council Colm O’Callaghan said: “Our policy is to use bailiffs only as a last resort after all other ways of recovering a debt have been exhausted.
“We give people several chances to pay before we reach that stage and contact them directly to discuss the issue, taking into account any financial difficulties they may be experiencing.
“It is our practice to work with people to see if we can agree a realistic arrangement to pay back any debt in instalments.
“We have a close and good working relationship with community organisations such as Citizens Advice that help with financial problems.
“Where we feel it would be helpful, we direct people to them so they can obtain support.
“Our approach is successful and typically we collect around 99 per cent of the council tax and business rates that are due.
“However, we do pursue unpaid debts vigorously as the public would expect us to, and when all else fails, we refer cases to bailiffs.
“The recent increase in their use may be partly due to an internal accounting review that has allowed us to identify debtors more quickly.
“Our bailiffs only make house visits when other methods of collecting debts fail.
“I am not aware of any cases involving us where a householder’s possessions have been seized and sold.”
To see the data visit www.stoptheknock.org