The Ministry of Justice has indefinitely put on ice a promise in the coalition agreement to introduce more protection against aggressive bailiffs. Detailed discussions with bailiff companies, creditors and the advice sector were expected to lead to a public consultation about bailiff regulation in July. These discussions have now ground to a halt because the Ministry of Justice says bailiff regulation will clash with another coalition promise not to introduce more regulation on small businesses. Ministers know from the reputable bailiffs companies themselves, who are all small, that they have been calling on governments for regulation for over 12 years. They have not changed their minds. They are sick of being seen in the same light as cowboy outfits and want to put a stop to bad practice.
Debts and the use of bailiffs against the poorest households are being increased by the Treasury and the Department of Work and Pensions capping housing and council tax benefits while the prices of fuel, food, clothing and transport escalate. It will result in families choosing between paying their rent or council tax, or paying to eat and then falling into the clutches of the local authorities who add the court and unregulated bailiffs costs to council tax arrears; and whose bailiffs the Ministry of Justice refuses to properly regulate. Legal and illegal door to door lenders will thrive on extortionate interest rates as the banks refuse to led to the poorest citizens. The consequence is an inescapable misery of debt, even mental illness which costs billions in the Health Service.
It is vital that bailiff regulation is introduced with proper safeguards for vulnerable debtors before the Universal Credit hits impoverished households from 2013 when the DWP will be paying housing benefit direct into the claimants bank accounts with council tax benefit paid by the local authorities, all with caps. The DWP and the Treasury are creating a flood of unmanageable debts for the bailiffs to enforce.
Rev Paul Nicolson
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