‘House­hold­ers are be­hind es­sen­i­tal bills by £18.9bn’

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views -

HOUSE­HOLDS have fallen be­hind on es­sen­tial bills such as coun­cil tax and util­i­ties by an es­ti­mated £18.9bn, ac­cord­ing to Cit­i­zens Ad­vice.

The char­ity made the cal­cu­la­tion as it said it typ­i­cally re­ceived a cry for help with bailiff is­sues once ev­ery three min­utes last year.

It is call­ing for stronger reg­u­la­tion of bailiffs and said it has seen a 24% rise in re­lated prob­lems since 2014. Cit­i­zens Ad­vice said it is con­cerned that ag­gres­sive tac­tics are lead­ing to fur­ther debt and men­tal health prob­lems.

It said fall­ing be­hind with house­hold bills can have par­tic­u­larly se­vere con­se­quences – such as hav­ing es­sen­tial services cut off or los­ing a home.

The char­ity said peo­ple with house­hold bill debt were more likely to be out of full-time em­ploy­ment and around a third (34%) had a men­tal health prob­lem.

Gillian Guy, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cit­i­zens Ad­vice, said: “Fam­i­lies are liv­ing in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can sky­rocket through ex­ces­sive en­force­ment fees.”

She said an in­de­pen­dent bailiff reg­u­la­tor should be in­tro­duced “to fix this bro­ken sys­tem”.

In one case, Cit­i­zens Ad­vice helped a re­tired cou­ple who had fallen be­hind on some of their es­sen­tial bills and owed £700 in coun­cil tax.

In July, MPs sit­ting on the Trea­sury Com­mit­tee said the debt col­lec­tion prac­tices of pub­lic au­thor­i­ties have been de­scribed as “worst in class”, with debts of­ten pur­sued over-zeal­ously and with rou­tine re­course to bailiffs.

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