Flintshire Council bailiffs could be used to recover debts

Reporter:

Rory Sheehan

FLINTSHIRE Council will be able to send its own bailiffs to recover debts under a new arrangement approved yesterday.

At a Flintshire Council cabinet meeting members agreed to recommendations in a report suggesting the establishment of an internal team of enforcement agents  to claw back outstanding money owed to the local authority.

The council’s in-house bailiffs will be in place by the start of October.

Previously, external bailiffs were sent as a last resort to recover unpaid debts. 

Chief officer for community and enterprise, Clare Budden, said: “The report looks at the introduction of enforcement agents, also known as bailiffs, which is a sensitive issue.

“In the last year, the council had 1,745 cases in which it had no option but to use bailiffs to recover money and council tax. 

“It is only a very small percentage but the service is essential. It is outsourced at the moment but it could become internal.

“The council would have more discretion and control and could create profit for the authority – an excess of income over costs.

“If we employed our own, that could provide an income of £100,000 a year. It would also be in keeping with our anti-poverty strategy.”

Last year the authority used bailiffs to recover £700,000 in unpaid council tax as well as £200,000 in business rates. 

In January, a new fee structure was approved by Parliament in Westminster and set significant increases on the current fees structure for people who are visited by bailiffs. The total cost payable if goods are removed is set to jump from £129 to £420.

Deputy council leader Cllr Bernie Attridge said: “I agree with the recommendations but am just concerned the general public might see it as Flintshire County Council making money. We must stress bailiffs are used as a last resort.

“It needs to be explained to people that the increase in fees has come from the national government. We are always going to need people to collect the money.”

Ms Budden added: “It is an excessive charge and the fees are not set by us, but by statute. We have more than 55,000 houses in the county, so it is a very small number of cases which require the use of bailiffs. If we do it ourselves, we can look at more cases on an individual basis.”

See full story in the Leader

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