The move follows a powerful campaign by local media cooperative The Bristol Cable, who worked with local people, organisations and councillors to bring about the change. Campaigners drew on the Taking Control report, which Z2K co-authored, to evidence the problems with the bailiff industry and the urgent need for reform.
Bristol Council’s announcement comes just days after a grave report from the Treasury Select Committee, showing the aggressive and disproportionate debt collection practices used by local authorities across the country. The Committee’s report highlights councils’ “over-zealous” and “uncompromising” pursuit of debt. It concludes that rather than helping to recoup payment, bailiffs can instead drive people into further difficulty.
“At Z2K we regularly see the harm that bailiffs cause,” says Raji Hunjan, CEO of Z2K. “Many of our clients have suffered at the hands of bailiffs, facing severe intimidation, unaffordable demands and excessive fees. All too often bailiffs make it much harder, not easier, for people to clear their debts.”
The financial and emotional distress that this can cause was illustrated most tragically in the case of Jerome Rogers, who was driven to suicide by skyrocketing fees and pressure from bailiff company Newlyn.
Z2K lobbies both local and national government on these issues, urging councils to reduce their use of bailiffs and calling for better regulation of the industry from central government. Bristol City Council’s decision to pilot an a more ethical approach is therefore welcome news.
“We are delighted that Bristol City Council has made the decision to stop inflicting bailiffs on its residents,” says Hunjan. “The announcement is a great credit to the Bristol Cable and all the other campaigners who worked so hard to make this happen. We urge the Council to work with them and local debt advice services to ensure people in debt get the support they need.
And while we are still waiting for exact details on the pilot scheme, the decision itself is an important recognition of the damaging and counter-productive effects of bailiffs, particularly on residents already struggling with low income. We hope other councils will follow Bristol’s lead in adopting a more ethical, reasonable and ultimately more effective approach.”
As part of the campaign for bailiff reform, Z2K is asking everyone to email their MP or the Minister for Justice and highlight the need for greater regulation of the bailiff industry.
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