The recent move to axe council tax benefit seems likely to only be good news for those bailiffs who are already enjoying a roaring trade in Leeds.
This newspaper has found that Leeds City Council was forced to send bailiffs out more than 21,000 times over the last financial year to collect unpaid council tax – equivalent to more than 50 visits a day.
And the problem will only get worse thanks to the Government’s move in April to replace existing benefit for low income households with a localised scheme.
The new system has 10 per cent less Government funding than its predecessor and, unsurprisingly, has led to cash-strapped councils making savings by reducing the number of people entitled to the benefit, or by cutting the amount of benefit people receive.
Given the figures obtained by the YEP, it is perhaps little wonder that Citizens Advice has reported a leap in the number of people worried about council tax and how to deal with bailiffs. Indeed, it is hard not to see that figure rising even further.
The trouble is that local authorities face a Catch 22 situation. If they are to be able to offer reductions to those who are struggling, they need to bring in as much revenue as possible – which means having to recoup unpaid council tax, if necessary by hiring bailiffs.
For those already worried by debts they are unable to pay, however, the prospect of a visit from a debt collector will only add to the strain and anxiety.
An even stronger case for keeping heart unit
In the wake of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to mount a fresh review into children’s heart surgery provision, bosses at Leeds’s under-threat unit have been busy.
Three permanent consultants have been appointed to the city’s heart surgery service, while external experts have confirmed that an investigation into the deaths which caused the unit to be temporarily closed in March revealed no serious concerns.
It is vindication for those who believe in the unit and, taken together, these developments can only strengthen the already convincing case for retaining children’s heart surgery in Leeds.