Milton Keynes Council has been praised in a national report by the Money Advice Trust, called ‘Stop the Knock 2017’ for its reduced use of bailiffs in dealing with bad debt. It has also won praise for implementing key actions to reduce bad debt. The report also highlights three other measures that could reduce debt further.
The national research looked at the use of bailiffs to recover council tax arrears, parking notices, housing benefit and other debts by authorities in England and Wales, as well as seeking to ‘map’ debt collection practices more broadly.
The report highlighted that Milton Keynes Council is among the 38% of councils in England and Wales that have reduced their use of bailiffs over the last two years – in 2016/17, Milton Keynes Council passed debts to bailiffs on 8,898 occasions – a decrease of 3% since 2014/15.
Cllr Rob Middleton, Cabinet Member for Finance said, “I am pleased that our practice of making less use of bailiffs has been recognised. We have reduced the use by 3% at a time when there has been a 14% increase nationally. We have tried to get the right balance between collecting money owed and appropriate and measured use of bailiffs. We use them as a last resort.”
The report also highlights three ways in which Milton Keynes Council could improve debt collection practices.
- Make a clear public commitment to further reduce the council’s use of bailiffs
- Exempt Council Tax Support recipients from bailiff action altogether
- Sign the Council Tax Protocol and examine the Money Advice Service’s creditor toolkit
Cllr Middleton continued, “I will have a close look at the three recommendations. I am especially keen to look at the Council Tax protocol that was endorsed by the Local Government Association (LGA) in July 2017.”
Cllr Middleton concluded, “Milton Keynes Council is widely seen as a well-run progressive Council. Managing debt is important, but doing it in a fair and measured way is the socially responsible approach. I am pleased the national Money Advice Trust has recognised our good practice.”