Whilst Parliament and the country wait for the Prime Minister to see if she can negotiate a deal with Europe that is acceptable to her own party, I am trying to concentrate on important local issues affecting people in High Peak.
The £100,000 cut to Peaks & Dales Community Voluntary Services who will see almost all of their services, including community transport, cease to be funded, I have written about in full elsewhere.
Another issue that local residents have been contacting me about in much distress is council tax.
Derbyshire’s council tax has risen by over 5% a year in the last two years, alongside a four-year benefit freeze and falling real wages for the previous seven years.
The rising numbers of people in poverty and ‘Just About Managing’ is well documented. High Peak now has a plethora of food banks and food distribution groups in regular use.
I’m shocked at High Peak Borough Council setting bailiffs onto thousands of people who are struggling to get by and who fall only slightly behind with their council tax.
In the circumstances I have seen, High Peak Council has been demanding full payment of the annual bill well before the end of the year, and then passing the case to bailiffs when the resident is unable to pay up the hundreds of pounds demanded.
Bailiffs charge an immediate £200 fee and then further charges if payment for this even larger sum is not made immediately and in full.
There is nothing more frightening than a knock on your door early in the morning by men saying they have a court order for you to pay or your possessions will be seized.
In these situations, the legal advice is do not let bailiffs into your home, but some do so unwittingly.
High Peak Council set bailiffs onto over 1,400 people last year, and 1,300 already this year.
Cases I have seen were only 10 days late with their monthly payments. The Council make no checks and seem to take no account of financial hardship. Only 72 people were helped to avoid bailiffs last year.
This is no way to treat residents. It doesn’t even help the council’s finances as the bailiffs return less than a third of the council tax owed, after taking their large fees first from the payments extracted.
High Peak’s Labour councillors have tabled a motion calling on the Council to accept the Citizens Advice Council Tax Protocol to protect residents from unnecessary use of bailiffs.
I hope it is passed unanimously, and that High Peak residents who are genuinely struggling will not have to suffer even more from bailiffs and their fees, set on them by our own council.