Newham Council slammed over 130,000 bailiff call-outs

Bailiffs have been called in to collect unpaid council tax and parking fines in more than 130,000 cases in Newham.

Civil liberties groups released the figures amid fears that debt collectors are harassing or intimidating those that owe money.

Council chiefs said bailiffs were a last resort and those who owe money had ample opportunity to get their finances in order.

The figures, obtained using the Freedom of Information Act by Big Brother Watch, show Newham Council called in debt collectors on 131,542 occasions between 2007 and 2010. Only five other local authorities used bailiffs in more cases.

Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The coalition government must act now to end the culture of bully-boy debt collection which has taken hold in town halls across the country.

“Sending in bailiffs to recover debts should always be the absolute last resort. The fact local councils have passed more than six million cases to bailiffs for matters as trivial as the late payment of council taxes and parking fines is truly shocking.”

Local government minister Grant Shapps said the coalition government had plans to “rein in the aggressive use of bailiffs. Also, we will not be introducing the last government’s plans to allow bailiffs to force entry into homes to collect civil debts,” he added.

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A Newham Council spokesman said: “We recognise that sometimes people may have difficulty paying their council tax, which is why we offer help when they contact us, such as agreeing payments within their means. Residents are contacted on numerous occasions before starting legal proceedings.

“Bailiffs are only ever used as a last resort.”