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Brent Council to overhaul debt collection policy to help claw back £60m owed to town hall

PUBLISHED: 16:29 14 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:37 14 October 2016

Cllr Margaret McLennan is the deputy leader of the council

Cllr Margaret McLennan is the deputy leader of the council

Archant

Brent Council is to overhaul the way it collects its debts following a review that showed it is owed £60million.

The revelation was made in a report published this week which recommends the council employs its own debt collectors rather than use outside contractors.

At £35m a big chunk of the money owed to the council was due to housing benefit payment payments while £31m was due to Council Tax and business rates arrears.

The report predicts that if the town hall was to use its own workers to chase Council Tax arrears an extra £700,000 could be collected in the first year.

The council will also introduce a “fair but firm” debt recovery policy would ensure it deals sensitively with customers in genuine financial difficulty, while cracking down on customers who can pay, but won’t.

Enforcement agents directly employed by the council to collect debts would have more flexibility with customers which aims to protect vulnerable customers.

The new policy also means customers with disabilities, serious illness or who have difficulties reading and writing could have extra help such as being allowed longer to pay; temporarily halting enforcement action and assistance completing forms.

Cllr Margaret McLennan, Deputy Leader of Brent Council, said: “The council is currently owed millions in unpaid debts which is significant in the context of the substantial and ongoing government cuts to council funding and the increasing demand on our services.

“At the end of the day, this is taxpayers’ money and every pound we recover will help to protect the services residents use day in, day out.

“Whilst I’m very pleased that this strategy has been approved, it’s crucial for us to introduce it carefully and with thought. We will assess each case individually and make sure that our most vulnerable residents are protected and that everyone is offered the right time and support in order to help them pay off their debt.”

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