Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twenty-Seventh Report


Memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions


1.  The Committee has requested a memorandum on the following point:

    In relation to regulation 8(2)(b), explain why the charge for taking walking possession of the goods distrained upon on the debtor's premises has been increased from 10 pence per day to a single charge of £10.

2.  In the Department's original consultation, it was proposed that fees for walking possession agreements where bailiffs are used in the collection of unpaid council tax should be abolished altogether. This would have been welcomed by a number of authorities, because a disproportionate amount of the payments made to the bailiff by the debtor can be swallowed up by the daily 10 pence possession fee, with little money reaching the authority. On the other hand, it appeared that the abolition of daily walking possession fees might have the effect of discouraging bailiffs from agreeing to long term payment arrangements at all.

3.  However, much concern was also expressed that the abolition of walking possession fees could lead to an increase in the incidence of goods being removed from the debtor's premises immediately following the levy of distress. It was decided that in order to avoid unnecessary removal of possessions, fees for walking possession agreements should be retained. However, there was some indication that the existence of the daily rate was leading to the duration of walking possession arrangements being needlessly prolonged.

4.  The normal reasonable duration of a walking possession agreement tends to be approximately three months. A debtor might therefore normally expect to pay approximately £9 in respect of a walking possession agreement where the fee was fixed on a daily basis. £10 therefore represents an increase not in excess of the increases on the average levels of charge being introduced in respect of the cost of distress for council tax.

6th March 1998

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