Leeds City Council has hired bailiffs to claw back thousands of unpaid debts.
Figures show the council has referred more than 75,000 debts to bailiffs in the last two financial years. It passed on 18,720 referrals to bailiffs over unpaid council tax between April 2012 and February 2013. During that time the council was also trying to recover 7,708 unpaid parking penalties and 4,567 overpayments for housing benefit. Money Advice Trust figures show 1.8m referrals were made across England and Wales in the last 12 months. Chief executive Joanna Elson OBE said: “These figures make clear that something has to change. “It is not economically or socially responsible for local authorities to continue to use bailiffs so frequently. “They seem to be assuming that anyone not paying debts is a ‘won’t pay’, rather than a ‘can’t pay’.” But Leeds City Council spokeswoman said bailiffs were only ever sent out as a last resort. She said: “We strongly reject any claim that we overuse bailiffs to reclaim money owed to the city. “While it is right that we pursue those who won’t pay, we are doing more than ever to help and advise those won can’t.”