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Bristol City Council to drop 'hired muscle' bailiffs

image captionDeputy Mayor Craig Cheney grew up in a household struggling with debt

A council is planning to phase out "hired muscle" bailiffs under a pilot scheme.

Bristol City Council will run a trial of "ethical" debt collection to reclaim some of the £15m it loses every year from unpaid council tax.

It would be only the second local authority in England to do this.

Bristol is following the lead of London borough Hammersmith and Fulham which has said it will stop using bailiffs or taking people to court.

Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney, the councillor in charge of the Bristol scheme, said they only wanted to use bailiffs in the "bare minimum" of cases.

"I grew up in a family where we struggled at times," he added.

"I've hidden under the window ledge while the bailiffs hammered on my window with my family and I well know what it feels like to have that accruing debt.

"It means the council don't get the money they are owed because people can't afford to pay the high bill that has accrued over time."

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image captionBristol City Council said those in severe debt would be offered support

The council said it collected 97% of all council tax due last year, with a shortfall of £15m which could have been spent on public services.

In March local media co-operative, the Bristol Cable launched a campaign calling for the council to "stop using private hired muscle" to collect debts.

Media co-ordinator Adam Cantwell-Corn said: "They are saying they are going to collect more directly and also that will reduce the knock-on effects of stress and exacerbating mental health issues and the financial costs of eviction."

Mr Cheney said those in severe debt would be offered support and bailiffs would only be used in the most extreme cases under the pilot, which will start "within the next few months".

Related Topics

  • Bristol
  • Personal debt

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