Bexley refers more residents to bailiffs over council tax than any other London borough

PUBLISHED: 13:52 31 August 2016 | UPDATED: 13:02 01 September 2016

Bexley Council offices

Bexley Council offices


A new report reveals the impact of localisation of council tax support

Bexley has referred 3,741 low-income residents to bailiffs following an increase in minimum council tax charges - more than any other London borough.

In 2015-16, 5,101 low-income residents were issued with a court summons and 4,447 were charged additional court costs after the borough hiked its minimum payment to 15 per cent, according to a new report by the Child Poverty Action Group.

This is the first year Bexley has used bailiffs and charged costs for households that are unable to pay their council tax charges.

The report, Still Too Poor to Pay, reveals more than 19,000 low income, sick and disabled Londoners were referred to bailiffs in 2015 - a 51 per cent increase on the previous year.

Council tax arrears have risen since the localisation of council tax support to London boroughs in 2013, and the capital has seen a 45 per cent hike in the use of bailiffs to chase down the debts from the capital’s poorest households.

Before the changes, council tax benefit covered claimants’ council tax bills in full, but under the new scheme councils are free to set a minimum payment from claimants of between five and 30 per cent.

In Bexley, the minimum payment in 2016-17 is now 20 per cent, up from just five per cent in 2013-14.

Although a hardship fund was set up by the borough to help the most vulnerable, its budget was halved from £100,000 to £50,000 in 2015-16.

The report calls on central government to reinstate council tax support as a national benefit, providing up to 100 per cent support for people not in work.

It also recommends that if the benefit remains localised, London boroughs should reinstate 100 per cent support for their poorest residents.

Chief Executive of Z2K Joanna Kennedy said: “Over the past year Bexley has sent bailiffs after 3,741 of it’s poorest unemployed, low-paid, sick and disabled residents – the most of any London borough.

“What’s all the more shocking is in previous years the council exempted claimants from bailiff action as they were deemed too vulnerable, why the sudden change in policy?

“The real reason these people can’t afford to pay is that the amount they are charged has quadrupled over the past three years from five per cent to 20 per cent. For those Bexley residents struggling to get by on insufficient incomes these charges are simply too much.”

A spokesperson for Bexley vCouncil said: “We would strongly refute the claims that Bexley has used bailiffs more than any other London Borough.

“For 2015-16, the actual number where enforcement was used just for those of working age in receipt of Council Tax Support was 1,435 total cases and we have previously advised Z2K that their use of figures is incorrect

“The 3,741 referred in the release are the total number of referrals from 1 April 2013 to May 2016, and include any Council Tax Support cases where the debtor had NOT previously been receiving maximum financial support under the old Council tax Benefit scheme, as well as any working age claimants to Council Tax Support receiving maximum entitlement.

“We have a duty to all our Council Tax payers to collect debts from those who do not pay their bills. Enforcement action is only ever taken by the Council as a last resort. Before that stage we make every effort to provide a range of support and advice for people struggling to make payments.

“Before taking enforcement action the account is vetted to ensure that the holder isn’t vulnerable in any way. Our records have shown that where people have been referred to enforcement agents, 50% of them are now paying in full when first receiving a letter, which no longer makes an enforcement visit, with additional costs, necessary.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Bexley Times visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Bexley Times staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Bexley Times account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Bexley news

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our three-minute Met Office video forecast.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Two men have been summonsed to appear in court in connection with a fire at a leisure centre.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Award-winning architects, Ash Sakula, have been appointed to deliver the new design for the Old Walnut Tree Depot site in Erith.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bexley has been named as the top recycling borough in London, with 52.7pc of waste sent to recycling or composting.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bexley has helped to develop a new, innovative partnership, which focuses on keeping vulnerable families together and preventing young people from being taken into care.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford will be closed from midnight tonight, Wednesday January 17, for safety reasons, due to high winds.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Now is your chance to nominate an inspirational teacher for a Kent Teacher of the Year Award.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Police are growing concerned for a missing girl from Bexleyheath.

Most read news


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

Read the Bexley Times e-edition today

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Show Job Lists

Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder