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Centre for Social Justice report ‘makes powerful case’ for Government Debt Management Bill

Monday 27th April 2020​


A new report from the Centre for Social Justice makes a “powerful case” for the need for a Government Debt Management Bill, according to the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline. 

The CSJ’s newly-published report, ‘Collecting dust: A path forward for government debt collection’ outlines how central and local government lag behind the private sector in their approach to debt collection. The report calls on the government to take action to improve debt collection practice at both a central and local government level – something that will be even more pressing given the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak on households across the UK.

Drawing on the Money Advice Trust’s ‘Stop The Knock’ research showing 1.4 million council tax debts were referred to bailiffs by councils in England and Wales in 2018/19, the CSJ also concludes the over-reliance on bailiffs by local authorities is ‘costly’ and ‘ineffective’.

Among its recommendations, the CSJ is calling on government to introduce a Government Debt Management Bill to embed a fairer approach to debt collection across all of government, and supporting calls for independent bailiff regulation.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said:

“This welcome and comprehensive report from the Centre for Social Justice adds to the growing weight of evidence for why reform to public sector debt collection practice is needed.  The report makes a powerful case for a Government Debt Management Bill – and we too have come to the conclusion that legislation is needed to deliver the scale and pace of change required. With millions of households’ finances hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak, the need for a fairer approach from central and local government is more urgent than ever.

“We are particularly pleased to see the report’s focus on the need to improve council tax collection, and introduce badly-needed independent regulation of the bailiff industry.  Our research shows that 1.4 million council tax debts were sent to bailiffs in England and Wales in 2018/19 alone.  This can bring a devastating combination of adding to people’s financial difficulties, together with fear and anxiety over what is going to happen next.  Addressing this issue is long overdue.

“We commend the CSJ for its thorough research into this area and we look forward to working with them to drive forward much needed change in government debt collection practice.”​

 
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