Council stop bailiff cases for tax collection in trial

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 October 2015

Archant

BAILIFFS will not be sent to any more homes to collect unpaid council tax in a part of Weston during a trial period.

There are currently 7,589 bailiff cases in North Somerset, 1,140 of which are based on what was formerly called Weston-super-Mare’s South Ward, made up of Bournville, Coronation and Oldmixon.

The Mercury reported at the beginning of September how visits from bailiffs in the district had risen, while North Somerset Council is owed more than £11million in council tax.

A visit from the bailiffs can mean an initial £500 debt can rise to £905 – £235 of which is paid straight into the bailiffs’ pockets.

As a result, Bournville ward councillor Ian Parker said he wanted to see if there was an alternative, less heavy-handed way of recouping outstanding council tax from people.

He said: “There are two types of council tax defaulters. Those who just will not pay and those who cannot pay.

“Those who cannot pay are attracting my attention, because they need all the help they can get.

“Unfortunately a lot of people are on low-paid jobs or on benefits in this ward and there is a high-reliance on foodbanks.

“When people are struggling to make ends meet, something has to go and in a lot of cases, that is council tax.

“I understand the desperate situation people are in at the moment and they want to put food on the table rather than money in the council’s coffers.”

The council has agreed to add no new bailiff cases to the current list in the former South Ward area as part of a pilot scheme.

Instead, anyone who reaches a council tax debt of £150 will be visited by someone from the authority to offer help and advice.

Previously, help was only offered when people had already reached the bailiff stage in court proceedings.

The scheme is due to start in November.

The council is one of the top authorities in the council for the proportion of taxes owed.

Cllr David Pasley said: “When you look at the debts lost, there seems to be quite a few debts going back over a long period of time and things are getting better, we are getting better at collecting revenues.

“We have got a large amount outstanding, but the debt lost goes back way beyond this council or the one before it.”

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