TAX DEBT: Preston bailiffs defended despite child fright claims

CONCERN: Fears bailiffs could be frightening children
CONCERN: Fears bailiffs could be frightening children
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Council chiefs in Preston have defended using bailiffs to recover council tax debts, despite claims they could be frightening children.

But the authority insists its enforcement agents adhere to a strict code of conduct and act with “sensitivity and respect.”

Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children

Rob Jackson

In a new report the Children’s Society has called on all councils to stop sending bailiffs to homes where there are children. Instead the charity is demanding more support for families who find themselves in arrears.

“Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children,” said Rob Jackson, the Society’s north west area director. “Every child and teenager deserves to feel safe in their own home without being scared of the next knock at the door.”

A survey by the Children’s Society has revealed almost 17,000 Lancashire families have experienced council tax debt - 21,400 when the unitary authorities of Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen are included. Those families have included more than 37,000 children.

In the survey Preston has the higest number of families (2,053) in the Lancashire County Council area who have been behind with their council tax bills, with 3,645 children in those families. South Ribble has 1,594 families with 2,643 children. Chorley has 1,550 with 2,604.

Preston’s deputy chief executive Bernard Hayes said: “The council has a legal duty to collect council tax and we make every effort to contact debtors at all stages to make suitable payment arrangements, taking family circumstances into account.

“It is only where a debtor refuses to engage with the council that we use enforcement agents. The council is extremely sympathetic to vulnerable and low income families and will work with them to resolve their problems. Where we have no alternative but to use enforcement agents the council has a code of conduct to ensure they carry out their duties with sensitivity and respect.”