Council chiefs use bailiffs 18,557 times

A bailiff at work in a recent television series about the job
A bailiff at work in a recent television series about the job
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ST Helens Council is one of England’s most prolific users of baliffs and debt recovery agents, new research shows.

Council chiefs used baliffs almost 19,000 times to reclaim money owed them by residents.

The figures were complied Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, using Freedom of Information requests.

Between 2007 and 2010, they used baliffs 18,557 times.

The figures relate to late council tax payment and parking fine debt.

League tables place St Helens as the 73rd highest users of baliffs among 320 English local authorities.

But town hall chiefs have hit back, saying they only employ registered and regulated baliff services.

A spokeswoman said: “St Helens takes its responsibility for collecting council tax very seriously. The financial stability of the Council, and the quality of the services we can provide depend on our ability to collect the revenues on which we depend.”

St Helens, the spokeswoman added, enjoys a collection rate in excess of 97 per cent and insists failing to pursue late payers would be unfair to the majority who pay promptly.

She added: “While the figures are correct, they do not take account of the relative size of each council. While St Helens is 78th out of all 316 responding local Authorities, this list includes many authorities that are much smaller and would be expected to refer correspondingly fewer accounts to bailiffs.”

However, Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, criticised the use of baliffs, saying they should only be a last resort.

“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,” he said.

* What do you think? Write to us at Letter, St Helens Reporter, Bank House, Claughton Street, St Helens, WA10 1RL.