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Creditors, including local authorities, to work with people in debt to exhaust all options before bailiff action is taken

We wanted all creditors to do the right thing and help people deal with their debts in the best way. Our research showed there were five steps creditors should take to achieve good practice in debt collection:

Step 1: Set the right organisational culture

Step 2: Achieve the right motivation for debt collection staff

Step 3: Develop clear and encouraging communications

Step 4: Provide information and support

Step 5: Be willing and able to maintain and develop best practice

If someone had engaged with their creditors and was paying what they could afford, they shouldn’t have been subject to further collection and enforcement action.

Local authorities

We thought that Council tax payers would receive a better service if billing authorities and local debt advice agencies worked together. This would ensure that people who were struggling to pay their council tax were supported.

The good practice protocol drawn up by Citizens Advice and the Local Government Association reflects the best practice at local level. It helps local authorities work with debt advice agencies to find good debt collection practices and avoid using bailiffs. By setting down clear procedures and regularly reviewing them, cases of arrears can now be dealt with quickly and realistically, and complaints handled efficiently.

This approach is even more important at a time of economic uncertainty. With council tax benefit systems being localised, more residents will be expected to contribute to their council tax bill.

Other creditors

Creditors pursuing consumer credit related debts should be following the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) consumer credit debt collection guidelines:

These guidelines set out how creditors should treat debtors and the policies and procedures they should be implementing.