Contracted Bailiffs, Council Tax, Enforcement Orders and "vulnerable" persons

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Dear Forest Heath District Council,

Which Bailiff Firms and Bailiffs are currently contracted by Forest Heath District Council for the enforcement of Liability Orders?

Which Bailiff Firms and Bailiffs were contracted by the Council on 16 October 2010, 23 January 2011 and 4 August 2011.

Please supply the Council's Code of Practice for Bailiffs that is in place today (10 February 2012).

Please supply the Council's Debt Recovery Policy that is in place today.

Please identify and, where necessary, please supply the external documents which are referenced and form part of the Council's Code of Practice for Bailiffs, and the Council's Debt Recovery Policy.

Please identify the Council Policies on supervision of its contracted Bailiffs.

If the Council has a Bailiff Monitoring Panel, and/or a Bailiff Supervision Officer, please identify those persons, and describe their professional competence.

What checks does Forest Heath District Council undertake to ensure that its contracted Bailiffs are acting at all times under its legal authority, are correctly certified at all times, and have been authorised by a Court to work within the district of Forest Heath?

How frequently is the Council performing those checks on its contracted Bailiffs?

Please detail the checks and safeguards that the Council has in place regarding debt enforcement against categories of persons defined as "vulnerable" in the National Standards for Enforcement Agents.

What checks does the Council use to establish whether a debtor is potentially "vulnerable" before the account is issued to the Bailiff?

What policies are in place to ensure that those checks are performed satisfactorily, and routinely, *before* an account is passed to the Bailiff?

If "vulnerability" checks are not routinely made by the Council in every case, please explain why not?

Are Council employees trained in the correct procedures of the lawful fees that Bailiffs may apply?

Are Council staff trained to negotiate payment plans when a Bailiff has already been assigned, or have they been instructed to refuse, and to refer the debtor back to the Bailiff company?

Please detail the Complaints Procedure that the Council has in place for those with grievances and concerns over the actions of its Bailiffs.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours faithfully,

Francis Ahern

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Yours sincerely
Peter Heard
Legal Services Manager & Freedom of Information Coordinator
Forest Heath District Council
DDI: 01638 719309
www.forest-heath.gov.uk

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3 Attachments

Dear Mr Ahern

 

Thank you for your request for information dated 10 February 2012.  Please
find below the response to your request, in bold.

 

Which Bailiff Firms and Bailiffs are currently contracted by Forest  Heath
District Council for the enforcement of Liability Orders?

 

Rossendales Ltd

    

Which Bailiff Firms and Bailiffs were contracted by the Council on 16
October 2010, 23 January 2011 and 4 August 2011.

 

Rossendales Ltd

 

Please supply the Council's Code of Practice for Bailiffs that is in place
today (10 February 2012).

 

See Attached

    

Please supply the Council's Debt Recovery Policy that is in place  today.

 

See Attached.

    

Please identify and, where necessary, please supply the external documents
which are referenced and form part of the Council's Code of Practice for
Bailiffs, and the Council's Debt Recovery Policy.

 

No external docs used as reference as part of the above docs

    

Please identify the Council Policies on supervision of its contracted
Bailiffs.

 

The Council carries out monitoring controls, these are reviewed at
Quarterly meetings

 

If the Council has a Bailiff Monitoring Panel, and/or a Bailiff
Supervision Officer, please identify those persons, and describe their
professional competence.

 

Bailiffs are monitored by the Recovery Team Manager, Revenues Manager and
Operations Manager.  In addition to any formal complaints received, any
comments received from customers that are not official complaints are
graded in severity and investigated.  Quarterly meetings are held with the
bailiffs company to ensure their performance is satisfactory.

    

What checks does Forest Heath District Council undertake to ensure  that
its contracted Bailiffs are acting at all times under its legal authority,
are correctly certified at all times, and have been authorised by a Court
to work within the district of Forest Heath?

 

This is contained in S3 of the agreement with Rossendales that they will

ensure that at all times they and their employees possess all necessary

licences and certificates.

     

How frequently is the Council performing those checks on its contracted
Bailiffs?

 

The Council does not perform these checks, the bailiff company does this
as part of the agreement.

    

Please detail the checks and safeguards that the Council has in place
regarding debt enforcement against categories of persons  defined as
"vulnerable" in the National Standards for Enforcement Agents.

 

If the Council holds details of a person being vulnerable a decision will
be made as to whether to send debt to the Bailiffs. If the decision is
still to send the debt then this information will be passed on to the
Bailiffs. Our Bailiffs have their own comprehensive vulnerable persons
policy and in addition a dedicated welfare team who deal with such

cases.

    

What checks does the Council use to establish whether a debtor is
potentially "vulnerable" before the account is issued to the Bailiff?

 

Accounts are not routinely checked for 'vulnerability' prior to going to
the bailiff.  For the majority of accounts this would be picked up when
the debtor contacted the Council on receipt of recovery documents.  The
bailiffs have a policy specifically for dealing with vulnerability should
this be identified on making contact with the debtor.  Copy attached.

    

What policies are in place to ensure that those checks are performed
satisfactorily, and routinely, *before* an account is passed to the
Bailiff?

 

Specific checks for vulnerability are not carried out prior to accounts
being passed to bailiff, however if a customer contacts us on receipt of
recovery documentation the opportunity will be taken to establish if they
are vulnerable.

    

If "vulnerability" checks are not routinely made by the Council in every
case, please explain why not?

 

The volume of accounts being dealt with make it impossible to complete
individual checks of each account, however once it is established that a
case is 'vulnerable' there is a policy in place for dealing with the
situation.

 

Are Council employees trained in the correct procedures of the lawful fees
that Bailiffs may apply?

 

All of the recovery staff are made aware of the costs that have been
agreed on the bailiff contract and in which circumstances they can be
applied.  These fall within legal guidelines.

    

Are Council staff trained to negotiate payment plans when a Bailiff as
already been assigned, or have they been instructed to refuse, and to
refer the debtor back to the Bailiff company?

 

This would depend on the individual account and the history of the
debtor.  If the debtor has already made and broken multiple arrangements
with the authority, the debtor will be referred back to the bailiff.
Discretion can be used on the amount of arrangement and will sometimes
negotiate a lower repayment amount in appropriate cases.  Each recovery
account is dealt with on an individual basis. Debtors will have had
numerous opportunities to come to an agreement with the Authority prior to
the debt being sent to the bailiff for collection.

     

Please detail the Complaints Procedure that the Council has in place for
those with grievances and concerns over the actions of its Bailiffs.

 

Please refer to the Council’s website by following the link below.

[1]http://www.forest-heath.gov.uk/forms/for...

 

 

I trust this provides you with the information required.

 

Yours sincerely

Peter Heard

Legal Services Manager & Freedom of Information Coordinator

Forest Heath District Council

DDI:  01638 719309

[2]www.forest-heath.gov.uk

 

[3]My Neighbourhood - one click on these words takes you to lots of
information via your postcode

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This email is confidential and intended solely for use by the person to
whom it is addressed. Its contents do not necessarily represent the views
or opinions of Forest Heath District Council. If you are not the intended
recipient then please take notice that it is strictly prohibited for you to
copy, disclose, disseminate or otherwise use the message and any files
which may be attached to it. You are asked to advise the author that you
have received the message in error and to delete it from your computer.

 

References

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1. http://www.forest-heath.gov.uk/forms/for...
2. http://www.forest-heath.gov.uk/
3. http://www3.forest-heath.gov.uk/property......

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