Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

Bailiff Power: “We have the balance wrong”

June 13, 2009

Every time I think I have reached the bottom of this government’s inanities over bailiffs I am apprised of further actions which make sense only if these people are in the pay of the financial casino.

Thanks again to the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust I have learned of the Bill introduced by Karen Buck M.P., (Labour for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North), a few days ago under the ten minute rule. It has gone now to second reading which is a triumph for her preparation work which has taken a year.

[Most often ten minute rule Bills are killed at birth!]

In her introductory remarks Ms Buck offers these points which are worth some thought by us all: Bailiffs (Repeals and Amendment) is the title of the Bill and it “… make requirements in respect of the use of force and forcible entry by bailiffs; to make provision for the reference to court of certain cases involving vulnerable clients; and for connected purposes.”

“… Debt and debt recovery action have become a reality for ever larger numbers… the arrival of a bailiff is, for many of those people, the ultimate trauma and humiliation… people have had heart attacks when the bailiffs have arrived. The mental and physical stress… is one of the worst things that will ever happen to them in their life.”

She points out that not all bailiffs fail to be as helpful as possible. But “… many.. are desperate and vulnerable people, and many are also victims of error. … even the actions of bailiffs who behave entirely reasonably… are disproportionate and excessive.”

“… it has become clear to me that we have got the balance wrong,… we need to review… We must certainly not, in any circumstances, think of escalating the powers available to bailiffs, and the Government should rethink their approach to regulation.” [my emphasis]

“… In my local authority alone, and in respect of just… council tax… more than 13,000 cases ended up in the hands of bailiffs over a three-year period.”

“What does it mean… It means fear and trauma for people, particularly children. I have heard of moving cases… children have refused to leave the house or have insisted on having the lights out at home because they are so frightened of a bailiff… seizing their television or computer.”

“… also means an escalation of the original debt, which simply compounds the problems that caused the financial crisis in the first place.”

“For one single parent with three children, one… disabled… (a) parking fine, about which I was making representations, had escalated from an original £60 to £700 by the time the bailiffs arrived.” [my emphasis]

In another “… two sets of bailiffs (were) chasing the same debt. Payments had been made to and acknowledged by the council, but did not then appear on the system.” [my emphasis] This lady wrote “… each party refers me to the other, the fees are ever increasing and.. threatening the removal of goods for the same amount.”

The Bill’s aims “.. are threefold. The power of forcible entry into a person’s home and the power for bailiffs even to use force against debtors are far too extreme to be given to civilian enforcement officers. The balance has been tilted too far against the householder’s right to be secure from trespass into their home. ” [my emphasis]

“… overturns a long-standing common law tradition,… in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007… some p[owers] have not (yet) been brought into effect… such powers should be repealed.”

“… the power to enter domestic premises forcibly… for collection of criminal fines is already legal, and that too is creating appalling distress for many vulnerable households. Many… fines are levied on people on low incomes for offences such as the non-payment of TV licences, fare dodging and truancy.”

“… the issue here, too, is one of proportionality,… I also seek a statutory procedure requiring bailiffs to return cases involving vulnerable and impoverished debtors to the courts or the creditors, and powers to allow people subject to any bailiff action to apply to the courts for any bailiff warrant to be suspended… (this) is (currently) available only to people subject to county court bailiff warrants.”

“… case law, which holds that a distress warrant cannot be withdrawn once it has been issued. That directly contradicts the national standards for enforcement agents, which suggests a procedure enabling the bailiff to return cases of vulnerable fine defaulters to the court.”

“… disproportionate fines are being paid by benefit claimants and other low-income groups, intensifying the poverty that pushed many of them into debtY Finally, we need a statutory provision for bailiffs to accept ‘affordable payments’, with a definition of what that might mean in practice…”

“… I believe that they need greater protection, and above all, to be freed from the fear of the implementation of the excessively harsh powers held in reserve in the legislation.”

The Bill has six more stages; second and third reading in the Commons; first, second and third readings in the Lords; and signature by Her Majesty. It is only a pity that with this government tottering and the next election in any case but a year away the chances of it becoming law are slim.

But ‘good on yer’ Karen Black; you’re one we need back in the Commons. And keep it up Zacchaeus Trust; we need you.

Debt Control Man

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Debt, PMs, Chancellors and Interest

September 3, 2008

If you hang a round in your job too long your mistakes come back to haunt you. That must be what Gordon Brown has been learning!
Unravelling them—specially when the luck turns against you—can be not just daunting, but reveal weaknesses in the thinking. Just so, in my opinion, with our Dear Leader.
That weakness was initially revealed in 1997 when, as Chancellor, he virtually destroyed the regulatory system for the finance sector and the banks. It is a matter of personal satisfaction that I recognised his mistake then. Now we are all paying the price for the excesses that has permitted.
As Prime Minister the millstone of that financial policy is even more firmly round his neck. And, just as the publicity machine was building up to his big announcement on mortgages two more blows struck!
First his new Chancellor and long time helper, Alistair Darling, revealed an attractive attachment to honesty, explaining that the crisis before the world is certainly the most severe for 60 years—i.e. Since we all started picking ourselves up after WWII. The PM has been strenuously denying this truth. The Chancellor’s view was widely misinterpreted as applying to only this country.
And no sooner were the words of the PMs package of ‘help’ out of his mouth than the OECD, a very powerful voice in world economics, declared this country worst placed to handle the downturn—to be rather mealy-mouthed about the crisis ahead.
For reasons which escape me—except that GB’s luck has turned—the further OECD point, that the Eurozone was almost equally affected, escaped mention and seemed not to impact the foreign exchanges where the proud pound was further humbled.
The package itself shows further the inability of the PM to grasp the needs of starting to bale out, just as he didn’t take care to see there was balance in the markets 11 years ago. His moves are a costly way to bring help to a few people, and are largely not very effective in altering the slide in house activity, prices or rising debt problems.
Had there been serious thought about the most effective moves to ease and stabilise Britain’s financial woes, and I mean mostly those of the ordinary people upon whom the modern economy depends, his attention would have been on interest rates.
I have written at length in this blog, and have set up a page on my critique of interest rates and what we should all be doing about it. What he should have done about it is to give the increasingly more aware regulators [the FSA, the OFT] the power to control interest rates and demand a reduction in the rates charged by banks and credit card companies through those powers.
That would actually have cost the country rather less for a far more effective contribution to the difficult process of stabilisation and the rebuilding that will have to follow.
Being Gordon, however, he will be looking round for another grand gesture, another risk-taking bank to save, and be committing another £100bn to the bottomless pit that is The City.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man