Council send bailiffs to more than 13 per cent of Gravesham households in last year

PUBLISHED: 12:24 23 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:24 23 August 2013

More than 13 per cent of homes in Gravesham had council debts referred to bailiffs in the last year, according to new figures released.

In total 5,632 households were called on by bailiffs and the Money Advice Trust, who collated the figures, said local authorities called on debt collectors most commonly for council tax arrears and unpaid parking fines.

The organisation’s chief executive Joanna Elson said: “These figures make clear that something has to change. It is not economically or socially responsible for local authorities to continue to use bailiffs so frequently. Our experience through National Debtline shows us first-hand how bailiffs can deepen debt problems, rather than solve them.”

“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 very destructive, both financially and psychologically.”

A spokesperson for Gravesham Council said: “The council only employs bailiffs as a last resort. Every opportunity is given to those in arrears or have other outstanding debts to make arrangements to pay and come to agreement.

“Only when the council is satisfied that the debtor has the means to pay but will not pay are bailiffs called in.

“A clear indication of this is the fact that bailiffs collected £850,000 in unpaid council tax alone in the last financial year and there was only one complaint from a debtor.

“Bailiffs also collected £50,000 in unpaid parking fines in that year.”

Dartford Council’s figures were significantly lower, with 5.8 per cent of households being called on by bailiffs.

Have you been called on by a bailiff in Dartford or Gravesham? Contact the newsroom on 0208 477 3858, email or tweet @northkentnews.

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