Staying ahead in the credit game

The second Public Sector Credit Conference organised by Credit Today took place at the Midland Hotel in Manchester in September. Over 100 people attended the event, which was chaired by Claire Sandbrook of Shergroup.

Speakers included Peter Wordsworth, CEO of Fairfax Solicitors, who discussed his experience of working with the public sector: “In my experience, when the public and private sector work truly in partnership, compelling results can be achieved. This has been evidenced by the recent HMRC pilot and the work that Fairfax Solicitors has undertaken for the Child Support Agency where we were able to secure the agency’s largest single payment in its entire history.

“In my speech I wanted to highlight the relationship as a complementary one – where the private sector added resource and capabilities to complement those in the public sector. I therefore see no conflict between the two sides as we are both focused on achieving the same objective.

“Whilst in the beginning, the relationship between the private and public sectors was understandably tentative, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive and I wanted to highlight the potential of this relationship going forward.

“I believe that there is much to be obtained by the public and private sector working in true partnership to help recover monies and tackle the financial challenges which lie ahead, together.”

Axing credit card ban
Alison Cunningham, performance director of Debt Managment at the Department of Work and Pensions, announced that the DWP may axe their ban on credit card repayments.

She said that the increasing number of people claiming benefits as a reult of the recession could cause the government to re-think its stance towards accepting payments on interest free debits, through methods that would incur interest payments for debtors.

She said: “I think the way our current administaration thinks about public sector debt might change.”

Alison warned that human rights lobby groups would protest at using a credit card payment to pay an interest-free debt. The DWP currently has a debt stock of £2.1bn. Between 2009/10 the department collected a total of £294m.

Sally Gubbins, National Fraud Initiative, discussed council tax fraud, saying that the NFI should be saved despite the government’s decision to scrap the Audit Comission. Sally pointed out that the NFI had succesfully identified £664 million of fraud in the public sector from 1996-2010. Sally used Salford Council as an example as they are expected to raise an extra £1m in revenue this year by overcomming single person council tax fraud with the help of the NFI.

Andrew Hobley of the LGO told delegates that councils need to improve their communications with debtors prior to seeking bankrupcy proceedings. He argued that councils need to have better outlined policies on bankrupcy, and that checks should be made so that the debtors understood the actions being taking against them.

He said: “Recovery officers need to talk to council departments to try to recover debts fairly, and avoid the LGO writing a Public Report about them.”

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