Bailiffs are being used more to chase unpaid parking fines

The use of bailiffs pursuing drivers for parking fines which go unpaid, has risen by 21% in 24 months in England & Wales, according to a debt charities statistics.

Parking debts which were passed from councils on to enforcement agents on nearly 1.1 million occasions in 2018-19, this analysis was made by the Money Advice Trust found.

In addition Bailiffs were only called in more frequently to collect unpaid council tax by councils .

Local authorities have said they had a duty to collect this money.

Bailiffs are not allowed to force their way into people’s homes, but they can however take money on the doorstep, or take possessions that are inside or outside a home to cover the cost of unpaid debts.

The Money Advice Trust, which runs National Debtline, has collected data from 367 local authorities and they established that more than a whooping 2.6 million debts were referred to bailiffs.

Council tax has been accounted for the largest proportion of cases (54%)

but the total of 1.4 million has gone unchanged from two years ago.

In contrast the use of bailiffs to pursue parking fines has risen dramatically which now accounts for 41% of bailiffs being used by local authorities. For the smaller councils, their use to collect unpaid fines from drivers has also risen by 55% in four years, as the analysis suggests.

When bailiffs are called in

The Local authorities typically have their own traffic wardens called civil enforcement officers These issue penalty charge notices such as parking on double yellow lines, in a permit only zone, on zigzag lines or in parking meter zones.

These parking penalty notices are not in any way criminal offences. Drivers can not be sent to prison for not paying them.

They are enforced through a county court.

21 days after the court order has been issued, the local authorities can issue a warrant to the bailiffs,

which then allows the bailiffs to act.

It’s not possible to request the court to suspend the warrant or make an order to allow the charges to be paid in installments.

The rules differ for the following…

council tax arrears, housing benefit overpayments and unpaid business rates.

The Money Advice Trust is calling on the government to change the rules to then allow drivers

who are struggling to pay a fine in full to offer it in instalments.

“Bailiff action should only ever be used as a very last resort and can be avoided,” said J.Elson, chief executive of the trust.

“We will continue to work closely with the councils to help them reduce their bailiff use and to highlight to the government the urgent need for the changes in national policy that are required to quicken the pace of change.”

Richard Watts, from the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: “Councils have a duty to their residents to collect taxes, which play a vital role in funding important services that people rely on.”

Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Civil Enforcement Association, said: “Enforcement action is an option used by local authorities to recover over £500m of unpaid taxes and fines recovered each year, at no cost to the public bodies, which funds local services from adult social care and children’s services, to refuse collections and road repairs.”

The Ministry of Justice is reviewing whether bailiffs should be independently regulated.

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