Monday, August 12 2013, 9:42PM
“Council Bailiff fees MaladministrationA request made under the Freedom of Information Act reveals £0.325 million bailiff fees breaching statutory regulations have been incurred by thousands of North East Lincolnshire residents. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), has in past investigations found maladministration and upheld complaints in respect of fees charged in these circumstances. An ITV documentary two years ago exposed the same contractor, Ross-end-ales, for using techniques to generate fees whilst enforcing Council Tax. Defending the firm, the chairman claimed the findings were not representative of employees and the exposé focussed on one bad apple. Obtained after more than an 18 months battle, the data first claimed not to be held by the council, on being challenged was admitted to be held after all. The council's safety net was that cost limitations would give it grounds under the Freedom of Information Act to exempt its supply. An estimated 9,600 staff hours to identify and review each account costing £240,000 made it an easy job convincing the Information Commissioner and subsequently a Tribunal Judge that an appeal could not succeed and be struck out. Had another council not effortlessly disclosed information under the same terms and within costs limit, then North East Lincolnshire Council would have succeeded in keeping the data from the public.Information was requested in respect two categories of enforcement charges; a redemption fee, and an attendance with a vehicle.Listed in the fee schedule for redeeming goods, this charge is routinely added to debtors' accounts in circumstances where goods are not removed. The LGO in a report last year on an investigation into complaint against a Leicestershire Council stated that "the goods were not 'made available for collection by the debtor' as they were never removed. This was maladministration."Data reveals that from 2007-08 the redemption fee was added to the debt of 1,418 householders. Statistics show at most, goods are removed in a handful of cases and so based on the statutory minimum (£24.50) the council allowed its bailiff contractor to impose fees of £34,741 in circumstances where the LGO considered it maladministration.However, more costly for struggling householders, are those listed in the schedule for attending to remove with a vehicle. These have also had the LGO focusing on complaints into bailiffs charging without previously having levied goods. Consulted were the DoE (now Communities and Local Government), Certificated Bailiff Association and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, who agreed unanimously that this charge should not be imposed unless distress has first been levied.During the period, "van fees", valued £603,590 were charged to 4,643 householders. Against LGO ruling, 2,232 of these (£290,160), incurred the council sanctioned £130 on the same visit as a levy, not on a follow-up to a levy which can be the only interpretation of the law which defines an attendance as "a view to the removal of goods". Reference numbers for relevant Local Government Ombudsman's reports are 11 007 684 on an investigation into complaint against Blaby District Council and London Borough of Ealing, 95A01890 & 95A04826.Report on an investigation into complaint no 11 007 684 against Blaby District Council 10 July 2012Report on an investigation into complaint nos 95A01890 & 95A04826 against London Borough of Ealing 24 July 1997”
Monday, August 12 2013, 10:24PM
“Police evidence 1http://tinyurl.com/mpj4rlzPolice evidence 2http://tinyurl.com/mnszebk”
Monday, August 12 2013, 11:09PM
Tuesday, August 13 2013, 9:25AM
“This one woman who obviously isn't living in the real world:http://tinyurl.com/loftpuo"...Councillor Sharon Taylor, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's Finance Panel, said bailiffs were "the option of absolute last resort" for councils..."”
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