The Local Authorities Association has spoken out in response to the "wrong side of tax" report recently published by Citizen's Advice. The report, dealing with council debt collection practices, recommended changes to prevent councils going straight to bailiffs.
 

Last week we analysed a report from Citizen’s Advice. The report advised that local councils had potentially been too head strong in collection of tax arrears. Labelled “The wrong side of tax”, it revealed that some councils see as little as 27p per £1 recovered after hiring bailiffs.

GA responds to Citizen's Advice report

Consumer debt collection: our recommendation

Following the report and our blog, we made the case for avoiding bailiff services. Instead, opting for mediation tactics could be far more cost effective and better for mental health. In summary, we feel that bailiffs are very much a last option in all debt collection. If all else fails and there is no cooperation, then we would recommend escalating. However, with many council tax debts, this is not going to help the matter.

Citizen’s Advice recommended the government amend regulation to find a better system of recovering tax debt from citizens. This included the key outcomes of providing flexibility, making it easier for councils to collect and improving practice throughout the country.

LGA responds

Shortly after the report was made public, the Local Government Association (LGA) posted their thoughts on the subject. Despite representing them, the LGA agrees on many points with the report in that they would like to see outcomes including making it easier to collect a reality. They also support the notion of bailiffs being a last resort rather than an early fix.

Cllr Richard Watts who is Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board spoke on behalf of the association. He said:

“Councils have a duty to their residents to collect taxes. They strive to recover unpaid tax as sympathetically as possible and to provide support to households at risk.”

“As the Citizens Advice report makes clear, this needs to be supported by better guidance and funding. Councils would be in favour of it being made easier for them to recover money without having to use bailiffs.”

“Bailiffs should only ever be used as a last resort by councils. Anyone having trouble paying their council bills should get in touch with their local authority for financial help and advice as soon as possible.”

Clearly the LGA and councils they represent are sympathetic to the situation. We are in favour of this stance and welcome necessary changes. Speaking of the statement, AYOM’s Managing Director weighed in.

“There is an element of modernisation needed. This should include some level of automation for payments such as online gateways. There is also potential for those anxious about speaking about debt using alternate methods such as email, online and mediators.”

“We hope if there is discussion on outsourcing action pre the bailiff stage that councils are willing to talk as we are happy to share our experience. The same goes for businesses with consumer credit cases requiring action. Achieving high collection rates in the consumer sector needs the right people and processes to work. Having dealt with many over the past few years, we’d be very happy to assist.”

For more information on our consumer collection services, you can contact AYOM by calling 0800 130 3357. You can also get in touch via email at enquiries@ayom.co.uk or visiting our consumer debt page.




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