Bailiffs visit 12,000 of London's poorest households over council tax arrears

Over 122,000 people in the city have fallen into arrears on their council tax

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The Independent Online

Bailiffs were called to over 12,000 of London’s poorest homes over council tax in the last year, a report has revealed.

According to research by debt charity the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2k) and the Child Poverty Action Group,thousands of London’s had a knock on the door from debt collection agents after falling into arrears on their council tax.

Altogether, 122,740 people on local incomes have fallen behind on their council tax and 102,204 of them were summoned to court over their unpaid bill.

It comes just two years after 24 out of 33 London councils imposed minimum charges after the government cut council tax benefit.

Now London’s poorest are expected to pay up to 25 per cent of their bill regardless of whether they can afford it.

In addition, they can be made liable for court costs as well with 71,000 council tax support claimants being charged £8.5m in court costs on top of their unpaid council tax bill.

The highest number of bailiff visits were in Lambeth, one of the ten most deprived London boroughs, which saw 1,605 people visited and 8,505 people summoned to court.

In contrast, one of London’s richest boroughs Kensington & Chelsea did not pass on the funding cut to their residents and only two people were visited by bailiffs in the same period.

 

* Policy not to charge costs/use bailiffs 

Joanna Kennedy, Chief Executive of Z2K said: “Although it may not seem much to some people, those families we support simply can’t afford the £5 or £10 a week these councils are charging. The end result is either cutting down on essentials and going hungry or fail to pay and risk having an aggressive bailiff knocking on your door. That’s not a choice any family should face.”

Cllr Paul McGlone, the deputy leader of Lambeth Council, said they had cut the number of visits by bailiffs in half over the past year but were facing a severe cut in spending.

He said: "We have to be financially responsibly and make sure that money owed to us is collected as the delivery of more than 100 key services depends on it.

“A large number of people initially fell into debt after the Government passed responsibility for the Council Tax Support Scheme to councils – but with a 10 per cent budget cut leaving both the council and many vulnerable residents at a disadvantage."

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