New research has revealed that the City of Lincoln Council called on bailiffs to collect debts from people and businesses 1,904 times in 2014/15 – a rise of 11%.
The number of debts passed to bailiffs was equivalent to 3.97% of properties in the city, ranking the council 196 out of 326 for local authority bailiff use in England and Wales during 2014/15.
Research conducted by the Money Advice Trust, as part of National Debtline’s new Stop The Knock campaign, was compiled through Freedom of Information requests to authorities across the country.
The charity is calling for bailiffs, known legally as enforcement agents, to be used as a last resort – with a greater focus on preventative work.
National Debtline provided advice to 160 residents in Lincoln last year.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe, Leader of City of Lincoln Council, said: “We have a duty to collect money owed to us so that we can provide vital services in the city.
“Debt collectors are only ever used as a last resort and when all other avenues have not been successful.
“Anyone who has problems paying money owed to the council should contact us as soon as possible for financial help and advice.”
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline said: “Local councils are facing significant funding pressures – and they of course have have a duty to collect what they are owed.
“In the case of council tax this is crucial in ensuring proper funding for the services that local people rely on.
“The council’s use of bailiffs, however, remains too high.
“Our research shows that the councils who use bailiffs the most are actually less effective at collecting council tax arrears.
“That’s why we are urging councillors to consider ways they can improve the council’s debt collection practices, and ensure that bailiffs are only used as an absolute last resort.
“I would urge anyone in Lincoln who is struggling to cope with council tax arrears, or any other type of debt, to seek free advice from National Debtline as soon as possible.”