‘Householders are behind essenital bills by £18.9bn’
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.