Shropshire Council bailiffs wrongly threaten 2,600 people days before Christmas

Shropshire Council's bailiffs wrongly threatened to seize the belongings of more than 2,500 people days before Christmas.

The authority's contracted bailiff company, Bristow and Sutor, has since been suspended while an investigation gets underway.

The leader of Shropshire Council, Peter Nutting, said it was "beyond belief" that the company could make the error during a pandemic and at Christmas.

Bristow and Sutor contacted 2,622 people throughout the county informing them a bailiff would come to their home to remove goods within seven days, in payment for unpaid council tax.

The company said it was instead meant to sent a letter advising them that the council had obtained a liability order to collect outstanding tax, which it did in November.

The initial letter should have asked for people’s income, expenditure and employment details within 14 days, enabling them to make an arrangement or pay back any money owed through their wages.

Shropshire Council has apologised and confirmed the threat of a bailiff visit would be the very last resort.

Councillor Nutting said: "Due to this serious oversight, we have asked Bristow and Sutor to suspend further activities whilst an investigation is undertaken. We have also asked that the company send another letter, reassuring residents and informing them of their error.

Vulnerable

“This kind of mistake is unacceptable at any time, but during a pandemic and at Christmas, when families have been hit hard in so many ways, it is beyond belief.

“While the error was not due to anything the council did, we would like to apologise for the issues and any undue stress this has caused.

“By way of an apology, I have asked that the company make a donation to my chosen charity, Shrewsbury Town in the Community, and I’m pleased to say that they have donated £250 that will benefit people across Shropshire.

“Please know, if you require financial assistance, there are lots of places you can go for independent advice and guidance. We also have a Local Support and Prevention Fund (LSPF) which exists to help vulnerable people who are facing crisis.”

Andy Rose, Bristow and Sutor's chief executive, added: "Unfortunately, I have established that our system produced and issued an incorrect letter to some Shropshire customers, giving the wrong message and causing great anxiety as to their situation.

"This is entirely our fault and we have apologised to Shropshire Council, and we are in the process of issuing immediate apologies to all those who have received the wrong letter.

"This error is not representative of the professional standards we set and an internal investigation is taking place to identify the root cause and ensure there is no repetition.”

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