Excessive Use of Bailiffs In Council Tax Cases Remains A Huge Problem In Lambeth

11 December 2017

For the third time in three years, Lambeth Greens have asked Lambeth Council to stop
their excessive use of bailiffs against the council’s residents.

The latest request follows their political victory locally in November 2016, when the Council
capitulated to pressure from the Greens to stop using bailiffs for residents in Council Tax
Support (CTS) arrears [1]. This followed strong criticism from the Child Poverty Action
Group in 2016 which showed Lambeth had the second highest use of bailiffs in London for
CTS cases [2].

While Lambeth Council have now entirely ceased using bailiffs for CTS arrears cases,
their use of bailiffs to recover debts from non-recipients of CTS for Council Tax Arrears
cases has actually increased year-on- year since 2015. A recent Freedom of Information
request made by Green Party co-leader and Lambeth resident Jonathan Bartley revealed
that in the 2015-16 financial year, 8,648 residents received visits from bailiffs for this
reason, and for 2016-17, the figure shot up to 9,726.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, who is a Streatham resident, said:

“Just because someone isn’t a recipient of CTS, it doesn’t mean that they’re not otherwise struggling with their bills. It’s extremely common for Londoners in low and even average income jobs to be juggling a number of debts, bills and financial demands at any given time. 3% of the local population of Lambeth in 2016-17 alone have had visits from bailiffs collecting Council Tax arrears. This is a huge operation which suggests that these are more than just ‘last resort’ cases for people who are unwilling to confront their Council Tax debts.

It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that while Lambeth Council have stopped collecting debts against the poorest people in the area, they are instead turning their attention to the next-poorest to make up the backlog.

I’m calling on Lambeth to rethink their approach entirely and find other ways of resolving outstanding Council Tax debts in the borough. The intimidating and deeply stressful use of bailiffs should be an absolute last resort for all councils, not the default approach”.


[1] https://lambeth.greenparty.org.uk/news/2016/11/08/lambth-council-bows-to-green-pressure-to- stop-using-bailiffs-on-lambeths-poorest/

[2] http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/still-too-poor-pay-three-years-localised-council-tax-support-london


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