8 November 2016
Lambeth Council has bowed to pressure from the Green Party to stop sending bailiffs to the poorest households in the borough.
After sustained criticism, the council, which ranked second worst in London for using bailiffs according to a study by two national charities, has scrapped the practice – and seen an increase in collection rates.
The Green Party has been consistently pushing for the council to stop the use of bailiffs where low-income residents in receipt of Council Tax Support fall into arrears.
Among the 33,000 people receiving Council Tax Support in Lambeth are pensioners, carers, war widows and disabled residents.
In 2013-14 Lambeth Council used bailiffs in 3,244 CTS cases, but its latest figures show the practice ceased entirely in the last tax year 2015-16.
The council has admitted that by ending the costly use of bailiffs and significantly reducing court summonses it has reduced its own costs, and that collection rates have risen from 80% to 93%
Green councillor Scott Ainslie, of St Leonard's Ward, said: “It took two national charities and the Green Party to persuade Labour's complacent councillors that sending bailiffs in to scare the poorest people in this area, and then drag them through costly legal procedures was just wrong and economic nonsense.”
Mr Ainslie first raised the issue with the council in January 2015 after it was slammed as the second worst in London for its use of bailiffs on low-income families. (1)
“The people most likely to have knocks on the door were the least likely to have funds for court costs and were desperately trying to make ends meet.
“When you're in that situation because of benefit cuts, losing your job or health problems, the last thing you need is someone banging on your door and dragging you to court.”
The Green Party has been campaigning for Lambeth Council to adopt the policies of Bexley, Brent, Islington and Southwark councils which do not send out bailiffs in these cases.
Chris Holt, 07866 801177