The Money Advice Trust says bailiffs should only be called in as a last resort and is urging the Government to implement a national strategy to reduce their use across England and Wales.
Freedom of Information requests by the Money Advice Trust, which operates the National Debtline, show that Scarborough Borough Council referred 6,029 debts to bailiffs in 2018-19 .
That’s 2,230 fewer than two years earlier – a drop of 27%.
Bailiffs, also known as enforcement agents, visit properties to remove and sell goods for the repayment of certain debts, including council tax arrears, parking notices and others owed to the council.
The Money Advice Trust’s Stop the Knock 2019 report revealed a 7% increase in bailiff use across England and Wales over the last two years, with 2.6 million cases in 2018-19 – driven by a 21% rise in the number of parking debts referred.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the charity, said: “Bailiff action is harmful to people in debt, and these findings should concern us all.
“Reforming the law around bailiff action itself is vital if we are to protect people from harm.”
The Money Advice Trust’s research also looked at how local authorities manage debt collection, and found that 99% of councils, including Scarborough Borough Council, point residents in financial difficulty in the direction of free debt advice.
Further debt collection practices mentioned in the report include exempting recipients of Council Tax Support from bailiff action, and signing the Citizens’ Advice Council Tax Protocol, which aims to prevent people from getting into debt. But in Scarborough, council tax support recipients are not exempted from bailiff action, and the council has not signed up to the protocol.
The Local Government Association argued that councils “have a duty to their residents” to collect unpaid debts, but said it was working with Citizens Advice to develop fairer recovery and enforcement policies, including exemptions for vulnerable families.