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Regulator should oversee bailiff industry

Parliamentary select committee backs plan for independent bailiff regulator.

Labours call for bailiff oversight – voted down by Lancashire Conservatives – now backed by MPs.

Less than two months after Labour lost a motion calling for a new body to oversee complaints about bailiffs’ behaviour, a parliamentary select committee has recommended that a new bailiffs regulator is indeed needed.

Councillor Geoff Driver, who, as leader of the ruling Conservative administration saw 6065 bailiffs instructed in 12 months, ridiculed casework evidence brought by Cllrs Gillian Oliver (Preston South West) and Lorraine Beavers (Fleetwood East) at the meeting of the council on Feb 28th 2019. Conservative councillors mocked the cases brought by Labour, downplaying the evidence they brought as ‘unrepresentative’. They booed and murmured at the experiences of residents whose debts rose exponentially from one unpaid parking ticket.

Councillors Oliver and Beavers highlighted instances of bailiffs arriving unannounced, gaining entry by false pretences and speaking to a neighbour about a resident’s indebtedness. The residents in these cases were unwell or recovering from surgery, and were fielding more than one outstanding debt. In one case the resident did subsequently receive compensation from Lancashire County Council.

In Parliament the Justice Committee concluded last week that the current complaints system is fragmented and hard to navigate, especially for vulnerable people. It recommended an independent complaints body of the kind called for by Citizens Advice and others. MP’s recommended making body-worn cameras mandatory for bailiffs visiting homes and businesses, to help in the cases of subsequent dispute.

Councillor Oliver said, “Both Cllr Beavers and I had received complaints about the behaviour of bailiffs sent by Lancashire County Council. But when we raised this in the council meeting, the Conservatives were in some kind of mock denial. One Conservative councillor even acknowledged privately he had received such a complaint, although he was unable to say so in the council debate.

“What we have here is an uncaring Conservative council who is deaf to the cries of its residents at the hands of bailiffs it sends out more than 6000 times a year. We were asking for some humanity to be brought into this realm of the council’s work, and we are glad now to have the backing of a government committee.”

For more information www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/justice-committee/news-parliament-2017/bailiffs-enforcement-of-debt-report-published-17-19-/

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