Harrogate council sends bailiffs out 1,304 to chase parking fines

Date:27th June 2013.'An image to illustrate a bailiff knocking on someones door.
Date:27th June 2013.'An image to illustrate a bailiff knocking on someones door.

Harrogate Borough Council used bailiffs to chase parking fines 1,304 times last year.

New figures show that the council has increased its use of bailiffs by 50 per cent in the last two years.

However the council was praised by the Money Advice Trust for not sending bailiffs after residents who are in council tax arrears.

The authority is one of just eight across the UK which avoided using bailiffs, which are seen as a last resort.

Matt Hartley, a spokesperson for the Money Advice Trust said: “Harrogate should be praised for that approach, they are an example to others when it comes to council tax arrears.”

However the 1,304 bailiff referrals by Harrogate Borough Council in 2014/15 is a 50 per cent increase compared to the 870 referrals in 2012, figures show.

The Money Advice Trust says that bailiffs should only be used as an absolute last resort.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline said: “Local councils are facing significant funding pressures – and they of course have a duty to collect what they are owed.

The council’s use of bailiffs, however, remains too high. On the front line of debt advice we know that sending the bailiffs in can deepen debt problems, rather than solve them – and it can also have a severe impact on the well being of people who are often already in a vulnerable situation.

“Bailiff action is not only harmful to those in arrears – it is also a poor deal for the council taxpayer.

“Our research shows that the councils who use bailiffs the most are actually less effective at collecting arrears.”

In the first quarter of this year Harrogate Borough Council wrote off £48,597 of debts or overpayments of housing benefit or council tax benefits which were ‘irrecoverable’.

The largest chunk of this was £20,084 of housing benefits overpaid in office error.

In 2014/15 the total around of irrecoverable debts and overpayments totalled £171,881.

Last year National Debtline provided free, advice to 171 residents in the Harrogate area, and says it wants to help many more who are struggling financially in the area call 0808 808 4000 for financial advice.