The offices of Lichfield District Council. Pic: Lichfield District Council

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Lichfield District Council have been urged to stop using bailiffs to collect unpaid debts. The Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline, revealed the local authority used bailiffs 1,079 times in 2014-2015, down from 1,655 in 2012, according to the Money Advice Trust. The council ended the year with £1.5 million in unpaid tax arrears – and the authority insists it’s vital that money they’re owed is collected.
Colin Ball
But Lichfield Labour branch chairman Colin Ball says the number of times bailiffs have been used is still too high. “I think it’s absolutely shocking that Lichfield District Council are using bailiffs to collect unpaid debts,” he said. “This goes back to the living wage. If people were earning decent money they wouldn’t be in arrears in the first place. “The council should stop using bailiffs immediately and actually support people who are struggling.” But Conservative councillor Christopher Spruce, cabinet member for finance and democracy, insisted the use of bailiffs is always a last resort.
Cllr Christopher Spruce
“Council tax funds vital local services, such as waste collections, so it’s essential we collect it from all households that are required to pay,” he said. “If anyone is struggling to pay, we can help them to find out what support they may be entitled to, or make special arrangements to pay off their outstanding balance. “We only use enforcement agents [formerly bailiffs], where people have not made any attempts to pay their bill after several reminders, or have failed to contact us to make a reasonable arrangement. “We recognise that the use of enforcement agents can be worrying for people and adds to their debt, so we encourage residents who are struggling to pay their council tax to contact us at the first opportunity and immediately if they receive a reminder letter, so we can discuss how we can help.” Anyone who is facing difficulty paying their bill is asked to contact Lichfield Connects on 01543 308900.

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Lewis Deakin

NCTJ-trained reporter with experience in a wide variety of journalism settings.