Shropshire councils used bailiffs more than 8,000 times
Bailiffs were used more than 8,000 times last year by the two councils in Shropshire, it has been revealed.
New figures released by the Money Advice Trust, a debt advice charity, show that Shropshire Council used bailiffs 5,295 times to collect their debts in the last year.
In Telford, the figure was 2,839, while across the border in Powys, bailiffs were called on 2,509 times.
All three councils are below the national average for using bailiffs, at around four per cent of the time.
Paul Crayston, a spokesman for the Money Advice Trust, said: "Authorities in Shropshire referred debts to bailiffs at a frequency below the national average. However, the number of referrals is still very concerning.
"There are more effective ways for local authorities to collect money on behalf of the local taxpayer. All too often we hear of cases where sending the bailiffs in leads to further, more intractable debt problems in the future."
Mike Owen, Shropshire Council's Cabinet member for resources, finance and support, said: "We have a duty to the vast number of residents who pay their taxes to pursue the small number of individuals who don't.
"However, referrals to the bailiff are a last resort when all avenues to make arrangements with residents to recover debt are exhausted.
"The money collected funds the vital frontline services residents need and want."
Councillor Bill McClements, Telford & Wrekin cabinet member for Finance & Enterprise, said: "Like most councils in the UK, we do sometimes have no option but to resort to bailiffs to collect debts owed to us. Calling on bailiffs is an absolute last course of action when all other attempts to secure a payment from the debtor have failed.
"We don't take bailiff action lightly, however, we have a duty to all the taxpayers in Telford & Wrekin to collect council tax and those who don't pay are a very small minority."
The figures also showed the number of referrals to bailiffs for business properties as well as residential. Shropshire referred business debts to bailiffs 532 times, while Telford & Wrekin did 184 times and Powys 127 times.
The figures come after the debt advice charity submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 374 local authorities in England and Wales.