Councillors monitor ballifs

BALIFFS are to be watched by councillors on their early morning trips to the homes of people who have not paid their taxes to cut down on bad behaviour

BALIFFS are to be watched by councillors on their early morning trips to the homes of people who have not paid their taxes to cut down on bad behaviour.A team of councillors will join bailiffs over the next few weeks when they doorstep people who have failed to pay their council tax after it was revealed scores of people believe they are being seriously mistreated or overcharged.A massive survey by the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) revealed that more than two thirds of people surveyed in the district believed bailiffs showed no discretion when dealing with vulnerable people.North Somerset Council says it is concerned with the alarming figures and will send out a taskforce of councillors with bailiffs. The councillors will report back in September with ideas of how to improve the bailiff service, which North Somerset is responsible for but contracts out to specialist company.The authority has also hired a 'vulnerability officer' who will help people who feel threatened by bailiffs and are in vulnerable positions - whether they are elderly, disabled or simply have no idea how to pay their bills.The working party of councillors has been set up by the council's finance and resources performance policy and scrutiny panel.Panel chairman David Jolley said: "There are concerns about the bailiff service, especially its effect on the end user, i.e. - the person having their door knocked on at 6am."A few members of the panel will go out with the bailiffs and look to see what the issues are and what can be done about them. They will be watching how people are treated."There are two types of people bailiffs deal with, those through no fault of their own are unable to pay where better negotiation would be helpful. Then there are the other type who won't pay but are able. A report will be drawn up by the working party for the panel's next meeting in September."The working party consists of councillors Andrew Horler, Robert Cleland and Chris Kimitri.

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