Councils increasingly turn to bailiffs to pursue unpaid parking fines

Councils are increasingly turning to bailiffs to pursue motorists who have failed to pay fines for parking infringements, it’s been confirmed by a debt charity.

Over a million cases were passed on from local authorities in England and Wales to collect unpaid parking fines in the past year, which is a 21 per cent hike in the use of bailiffs to chase drivers compared to the two years previous.

Councils said it was ‘their duty to residents’ to collect this money, though Money Advice Trust said bailiff action is ‘harmful to people in debt’ and called on the government to independently regulate bailiffs and introduce a simple complaints system.

Calling in the debt collectors: Local councils passed almost 1.1million unpaid parking fine debts to bailiffs to resolve in 2018-19, a new study has revealed Parking offences are the most common reason for penalty charge notices to be issued by councils Bailiffs can take money on the doorstep but are not authorised to force entry into properties. Debt charity Money Advice Trust said more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people Parking fines account for 41% of council bailiff use. Only council tax arrears forwarded to bailiffs by local authorities, the investigation found

In a statement issued in response to the report, Richard Watts from the Local Government Association said that councils ‘have a duty to their residents’ to collect unpaid fines because they ‘play a vital role in funding important services that people rely on’.

Though he went on to say: ‘However, we realise that times are tough and councils do their best to protect those affected the most, whether through introducing hardships funds or taking a sympathetic and constructive approach to the way we collect unpaid tax.

‘We have worked with Citizens Advice on a protocol for recovering debts, which as this report demonstrates is having a positive effect. 

‘It includes the need for fair collection and enforcement policies and the ability for councils to take back cases involving vulnerable families.

‘Anyone having trouble paying their council bills should get in touch with their local authority for financial help and advice.’  

The Ministry of Justice is currently conducting a review to decide if bailiffs should be independently regulated.

Motoring correspondent and campaigner Quentin Willson, formerly of BBC Top Gear, took to social media to voice his opinion on the matter, tweeting: ‘Bailiffs pursuing parking tickets is now 41 per cent of local authority bailiff use. Up 21 per cent in two years. 

‘Parking fines are a major revenue stream for councils and nothing to do with traffic flow or road safety. 

‘How have our MPs allowed this billion pound scandal to go unchecked?’

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