Bailiffs used 40,000 times in three years in Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Council used bailiffs to collect unpaid council tax and parking fines in more than 40,000 cases in the last three years.

The town hall was among the top 50 in the country resorting to debt collectors, new statistics from 2007 to 2010 show.

Campaigners Big Brother Watch, who obtained the information, said in many cases bailiffs “intimidate vulnerable members of the public”.

Daniel Hamilton, Big Brother Watch director, said: “The coalition Government must act now to end the culture of bully-boy debt collection which has taken hold in town halls across the country.

“Sending in bailiffs to recover debts should always be the absolute last resort.”

Of Tower Hamlets’ neighbouring boroughs, Newham came sixth in the country for bailiff-use, at more than 130,000 cases.

Barking and Dagenham used bailiffs 65,000 times and Hackney used them 59,000 times.

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Tower Hamlets Council insisted it only used bailiffs as a last resort.

A spokesman said: “We are bound by law to collect all local taxes; these taxes are used to pay for the local services that our residents depend on.

“In a minority of cases residents fail to pay and we take appropriate action to maximise collection. Bailiff action is only used as a last resort after persistent failure to respond to contact from the council or arrange payment plans.”

Local Government and Housing minister Grant Shapps said: “The coalition Government will rein in the aggressive use of bailiffs, and defend people’s rights and liberties against home invasion.”

The minister added that plans by the last government to allow bailiffs to force entry into homes to collect civil debts will be shelved.

Bailiffs currently cannot make forced entries to get into properties.

If they have made a peaceful entry however, like climbing through a window or being let in, they can seize goods.