Bailiffs called in more than 50 times a day over Leeds council tax debts

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Cash-strapped town hall chiefs in Leeds have been calling in bailiffs more than 50 times every DAY as they try to claw back a mountain of unpaid council tax.

Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post show that Leeds City Council asked bailiffs to look into a total of 20,268 debtor cases during the 2013-14 financial year alone.

Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children.

The amount of unpaid council tax in Leeds relating to the current financial year stood at £19.4m at the end of last month, the YEP can also reveal.

Today’s figures came as the Children’s Society voiced concern at the use of bailiffs by local authorities nationwide to chase council tax debts.

It has produced a hard-hitting report saying their visits to family homes can leave youngsters “frightened, sad or worried”.

Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children.

“Instead, councils should give struggling residents a chance to negotiate affordable repayments and make sure every family in trouble is offered independent debt advice.

“Every child and teenager deserves to feel safe in their own home without being scared of the next knock at the door.”

A spokesman for Leeds City Council today said that instructing bailiffs was “always a last resort”.

He also said the council offered a range of flexible payment options and took family circumstances into account so that collections were carried out with sensitivity.

The council acknowledged that this year’s £19.4m arrears was a “significant” sum but said eventual collection rates exceed 99 per cent.

It also pointed out that the “vast majority” of bailiff fees are payable by the debtor.

Council tax in Leeds will rise by 1.99 per cent in the forthcoming financial year as the local authority tries to cope with swingeing budget cuts imposed by central government.

Today’s figures have been revealed as part of the YEP’s Your Right To Know campaign, which aims to shine a light on every aspect of life in the city.