Charity criticises use of bailiffs to collect council tax

Citizens Advice Cymru has raised concerns over councils using bailiffs to quicken the collection of council debts.

It warned that councils were using the measure as a quick fix instead of a last resort.

The charity claimed that council tax debt was one of the biggest debt problems in Wales and called for a fairer approach to debt recovery.

Figures show that in 2015-16, almost 6,000 people asked for help with 16,000 issues regarding council tax, up seven per cent on 2014-15.

The charity has urged the Welsh government and the Welsh Local Government Association (LGA) to help tackle the issue.

A report by Citizens Advice Cymru said: "Many advisers consider that their local authority uses enforcement agents far too readily to recover council tax debt, with insufficient time given to explore other repayment options."

“Before pursuing enforcement action, a local authority must ask a magistrate for a liability order.

"Some local authorities are pursuing court action for debts as low as £50 or £60. In one extreme case, a liability order had been pursued for a debt of £3.95."

Mark Drakeford, Local Government Secretary, added: "Approximately 300,000 vulnerable and low-income households in Wales will continue to receive the help they need.

"We need to recognise that some people are facing very difficult circumstances and in these instances bailiffs should always be the last resort.

"I want to look at ways in which we can develop more proactive approaches to help prevent debt escalating and I'll be commissioning further research to look into this area."

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