Council reveals new debt collection service to cut need for enforcement
- Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images
A debt collection service aimed at reducing the need for enforcement action is being launched by the town hall.
Barking and Dagenham Council's Becontree collections service is due to start on Monday, April 12.
Cllr Dominic Twomey, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, performance and core services, said: "We know facing up to debt can be hard for some people, but it is always important to engage and work out a plan to solve your money issues.
"Through Becontree collection service, we want to work with residents and help them pay off their debt in a more sympathetic way that works for everybody.
"Not clearing a debt can lead to further problems down the line, so I want to encourage anyone who receives a letter to engage and let us help you."
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The service will seek to work with people who have fallen behind in payments, including council tax and parking fees.
The local authority says it has brought the service in house because it wants to move away from a standard "one size fits all" enforcement approach to bailiff services.
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It also wants to move towards encouraging people to work with the service to set up repayment plans where possible.
A key element of the service is that it will extend the initial period available for people to pay their debt.
Usually, an individual has seven days. Through Becontree collections service, they will have up to 28.
People will be contacted by letter to let them know they have fallen behind in payments and for them to contact the service to arrange a way of settling the costs.
Early engagement with the service could prevent future enforcement fees, the council has said.
If people engage and are unable to pay the debt in full, extended payment plans could be put in place.
The service will also direct people to other council services, such as the homes and money hub or other organisations.
However, if anyone refuses to engage or comply with the service, then enforcement action may be taken. This could include the removal of property to pay off the debts.