'This needs to change' – bailiff reform urged as new debt oversight body is launched

Debt enforcement issues are set to be overhauled over the coming months as today, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) introduced a new ECA. The ESA emerged from a “process of intensive discussion and consultation” and it will be a new, independent and fully-funded oversight body, with the functions and authority to drive progress in certain financial areas.

This news was welcomed by PayPlan, the free debt advice provider, which supported the overall proposals.

However, PayPlan also warned bailiff reforms are needed, especially for those with council tax debt.

Alistair Chisolm, the Head of Advice Sector Policy and Partnerships from PayPlan, explained: “Most people don’t understand what rights they’ve got when a bailiff arrives on their doorstep.

“Bailiffs have strong powers, but bailiff firms are exempt from independent regulation, and are scrutinised less than other debt collectors and lenders. This needs to change.

“The proposed ECA falls short of the statutory regulation that we believe is the best solution, but this new body is a step forward. We welcome the chance to collaborate and develop better protections for people dealing with debt and enforcement.

This comes as the latest Government figures show that council tax arrears in England have reached record levels, with over £4.4billion owed.

In light of this, The Money Advice Trust called for urgent reform to current council tax collection rules and a permanent increase in funding for local Council Tax Support in England, so that councils can provide support for up to 100 percent of council tax bills for those unable to pay.

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Joanna Elson CBE, the chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, concluded on this: “With seven million worried about affording their council tax bills in the next year and council tax arrears reaching crisis point, urgent action is required to help people struggling to pay.

“The current system of council tax collection and support isn’t working for anyone. Without the permanent funding needed to provide 100 percent council tax support for those who need it, local authorities are taking the costly route of attempting to collect partial amounts from people who simply cannot afford to pay.

“This not only leaves councils with limited to no returns on the tax they need to fund vital local services, but risks a swift escalation of debt problems for households that are already struggling.”



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