The Cabinet Office Fairness Group has this week published its Joint Public Statement on improving fairness in debt collection practices across central and local government.
This agrees how central and local government, the money advice sector, and the debt collection industry will work together to improve how government interacts with people in debt, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.
In response, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Unfair and aggressive debt collection has a serious impact on those in financial difficulty. We’re pleased government is looking to improve these practices and collaborate more with the money advice sector.
“Through the Fairness Group, we will continue to share our evidence on this problem and work to ensure the collection practices used by government are as fair as possible.
"This group, and the MHCLG led review of council tax collection, are good starting points for the government to take urgent action to improve debt collection practices. It must use the review to fundamentally reform the outdated regulations governing how local authorities collect debts.
“These changes, such as making sure people aren’t forced to meet the cost of their entire annual bill after a single missed payment, are necessary to ensure councils have the flexibility to help people get their finances back on track.”
The Fairness Group’s joint public statement, issued by the Cabinet Office is available here.
Last year, Treasury Committee MPs labelled government and local authorities “worst in class” for debt collection. They lag behind banks and energy companies which have realised that offering people affordable ways to repay is more effective than calling in the bailiffs.
The government’s announcement to protect people from aggressive debt enforcement under new plans to improve the way councils collect arrears is here. Last month, Citizens Advice revealed harsh collection methods adds half a billion in fees to people’s council tax debt.
The Ministry of Justice has said it will report back on the creation of an independent bailiff regulation in the summer.