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council tax bailiffs

How choosing the right Enforcement Agent can make all the difference

A recent freedom of information request by the Money Advice Trust (MAT) revealed that English and Welsh councils' use of Enforcement Agents has increased by 16% during the past two years. In response to the MAT's request, some sections of the press have been quick to paint bailiffs as Dickensian villains. We at Dukes Bailiffs welcome this challenge as a opportunity to set ourselves apart from the crowd.

Enforcement in context  

In a year that has seen council tax payments overtake personal debt as the biggest source of concern for many people in financial difficulty, a wave of anger has been directed at councils for pursuing this debt from struggling residents.

However, taking a closer look at the situation reveals a nuanced picture. Changes to council tax benefits in April 2013 cut government support for residents and put the onus on local authorities to support struggling locals. Unfortunately, this shift took place alongside cuts that slashed council budgets by 10%.

According to figures from The Institute for Fiscal Studies, these combined pressures have caused a spike in councils' problem debts. In this context, and against a long-term backdrop of £10bn of further cuts, it’s little wonder that local authorities need help with their cash flows.

Sensitive action

Without help from Enforcement Agencies, councils could not secure the funds they need to operate in the current economic climate. This dependency does not mean, however, that Enforcement Agents should be deaf to criticism. Colin Naylor, Managing Director at Dukes Bailiffs, says that 'the best response to negative publicity is to ensure that Agents are transparent and subject to high ethical standards.'

At present, commentators such as The Guardian consider responsible debt collection to be creditors' responsibility, but most local authorities and businesses have neither the time nor the skills to engage with debtors in this way. Sensitive Enforcement Agents like Dukes Bailiffs offer a solution to this dilemma.

Honesty and trust is crucial in building relationships with debtors. Other companies' mistakes show intimidation to be a weak strategy that is particularly unhelpful when clients' debtors are also primary stakeholders.

We at Dukes Bailiffs are convinced that if Enforcement Agents put time and energy into helping debtors build affordable payment plans, our industry will be seen as a helping hand rather than a clenched fist.

For more information about our ethical approach to enforcement, contact Dukes Bailiffs today.

Bailiff complaints at Dukes remain “extremely low”

Dukes have few bailiff complaints Bailiff complaints have been the norm for some years now as poor practices are exposed by more savvy customers. But Staffordshire based enforcement company Dukes Bailiffs is bucking the trend. Final figures for 2014 compiled by auditors for the debt recovery firm shows Dukes' levels of complaints remain exceptionally low. During 2014 Dukes received just 10 customer complaints despite handling almost 29,000 cases.

“The figures are reassuring,” said Dukes MD Colin Naylor, “But there is no room for complacency. Our goal is to keep learning from any grievances we receive in order to further reduce complaint levels. We fully understand our responsibilities and appreciate that both our reputation and that of the creditor is at stake.”

Independent investigation

Any complaints received go through a robust investigative process by an independent consultant. Dukes’ MD is informed of all bailiff complaints and progress towards a resolution is reviewed at weekly management meetings. The outcome of the investigation, and any appropriate remedy, is notified to the complainant at the earliest opportunity. No generic timescales are set as the nature of complaints can vary, but Dukes agree timescales with individual complainants and clients are then informed at every stage of the process.

Learning lessons from bailiff complaints

“Our Complaints Procedure has been developed over 23 years to ensure all genuine grievances are resolved promptly,” said Colin. “Although we have a hugely experienced team, we can still learn lessons. Handling bailiff complaints can be time consuming, but implementing corrective actions to improve any weaknesses ensures investigations are worthwhile.”

Where complainants are not satisfied with the outcome or the proposed resolution, Dukes actively encourage them to raise their concerns with the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA). Dukes always abide by the findings of CIVEA.

Dukes overall complaint level has fallen to 0.0003% of the total number of cases actioned. As the table below from the CIVEA demonstrates, the number of complaints received by Dukes is lower than those received by all but one of its competitors. Dukes’ data is in red, competitor data in blue.

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