Lambeth’s poorest residents have been protected from bailiffs thanks to the council’s debt strategy, launched last year.
One year into Lambeth Council’s Income and Debt Strategy, which included measures to help residents in receipt of Council Tax Support – the use of bailiffs has been completely eradicated against this vulnerable group, court summons have reduced by 75% and collection rates are up from 80% to 93%.
The figures and Lambeth’s approach were highlighted in a new report by the Child Poverty Action Group and Z2K on the impact of government cuts to Council Tax Support – ‘Still too poor to pay’.
Cllr Paul McGlone, Deputy Leader of Lambeth council, said: “Our debt strategy is just a year old, but it is proving a huge success in helping those residents who are working hard but struggling financially.
“We have brought together all available help for vulnerable residents in one place as well as providing financial advice to help residents better manage their finances and avoid debt.
“The government has slashed the money available to support residents who can’t afford to pay Council Tax in full – so we have a responsibility to step in and help them. We’ve introduced a series of measures which required investment in time and resources – but these figures show that approach is paying off by reducing the use of bailiffs while at the same time, increasing the collection rate. I’m delighted that what we are doing is working and we will continue our efforts to help people who fall into debt or struggle to pay their council tax through no fault of their own”.
Lambeth has gone from using bailiffs in 3,244 CTS cases in 2013/14 to not using any in 2015/16. Lambeth has also seen a significant reduction in summons from 8,933 in 2013/14 to 2,176 in 2015/16.
This dramatic reduction is a result of the new ‘Income and Debt Policy’, implemented in April 2015. The policy brought in additional recovery measures for residents in receipt of council tax support and established Advising London, an independent debt relief agency.
The government passed responsibility to local authorities for Council Tax Support in 2013 with a cut in funding and the additional cost to the council is now approximately £4.8m per year. Lambeth’s own Council Tax Support Scheme helped 33,000 people last year, including pensioners, carers, war widows and disabled residents.