PRESS RELEASE - Bailiffs and Council Tax Collection.
Plaid Cymru Councillor express concerns over malpractice by bailiffs used by Wrexham Council to collect council tax arrears. Wrexham Council issued nearly 8,500 summonses in the last financial year for arrears, which is an increase of nearly 2,000 summonses from 2005/06. The Council released over 2,600 court orders to external bailiffs last year and some anecdotal evidence suggests that in a number of cases, bailiffs may have used dubious practises to obtain payments from local people, many of whom are vulnerable!
Councillor Arfon Jones, who is also a volunteer advisor with Wrexham & District Citizens Advice Bureau said,
"It is essential that council's do collect council tax to maintain service, but they do need to monitor, more closely, how bailiffs operate, through robust service level agreements to prevent malpractice and abuse.and I am not sure that this is happening at present."
Councillor Jones has carried out research locally on the extent of the problem, for example: (permission to quote this example has been approved by the Bureau).
"The numbers of clients coming in to Wrexham & District Citizens Advice Bureau for advice on council tax arrears has increased by approximately a third from last year, and from some of the cases, we have evidence of bailiffs bills on file, showing very high charges. Clients are claiming that bailiffs are trying to force entry and also appear to be subcontracting to other bailiffs."
Citizens Advice published a report in 2006, called 'Putting Bailiffs On the Spot" which called on the Government to legislate to regulate bailiffs because of evidence collected nationally of malpractice. This report said that two thirds of cases of bailiff harassment, reported to Bureau's nationally, concerned the collection of council tax. Councillor Jones will call on the Council's Finance and Scrutiny Committee to carry out a review of Council Tax collection, he goes on to say,
"It is important to the Council's credibility and reputation that they contract out this type of work to bailiffs who treat debtors with dignity, and respect. I believe that Councils should employ their own in house bailiffs like Denbighshire Council who also have the second highest rate of council tax collection in Wales whereas Wrexham is in 10th place"