Bureau slams tatics of strong arm bailiffs

BAILIFFS operating in North Somerset are using threatening behaviour and unlawfully taking money, according to a landmark study

BAILIFFS operating in North Somerset are using threatening behaviour and unlawfully taking money, according to a landmark study.The bailiff companies employed to collect council tax in the district have been misrepresenting their powers and taking money that is not theirs, claims a survey carried out by the Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB).People across North Somerset were questioned on their experiences with bailiffs, with more than a third saying they had been overcharged and half saying they had been harassed or intimidated.Portishead town councillor David Pasley, who is also director of the district's Citizen's Advice Bureau, said: "I was shocked when I saw the figures and bailiffs' behaviour is causing some alarm."While we conducted 60 interviews with members of the public, who came to us, we are sure there are many more who are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals from bailiffs."In one instance we were told about a bailiff who told a 10-year-old girl that her grandmother would go to prison if she didn't pay the £25 she owed in council tax."We do have evidence to prove this is going on and we have presented the information to Weston MP John Penrose and Woodspring MP Liam Fox, who have both said they are going to press for changes to the law."This whole issue over collection of council tax shows that the system of constantly raising the tax is only causing vulnerable people to be placed in more vulnerable positions when they simply cannot pay."North Somerset Council employs the bailiff companies to collect council tax arrears. A spokesman for the authority said: "We are aware of the CAB's local survey, which was conducted as part of a national campaign."We use two reputable bailiff companies, which conduct their business in accordance with a nationally prescribed code of conduct."We met with the CAB to consider the results of the survey and a number of recommendations they suggested."We are working on implementing these to improve the current bailiff arrangements. "These include a revised agreement with bailiffs which provides clarity of fees and charges, the increased use of an internal recovery officer for cases when dealing with vulnerable individuals and a commitment to work closer with the CAB in supporting customers in financial difficulties.

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