Trade body to cease involvement in bailiff complaints adjudication
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA), a trade association that represents around 2,000 certificated civil enforcement agencies operating in England and Wales, has said it will from 1 June no longer review complaints on behalf of its members.
This means that all complaints about enforcement agents acting on behalf of local authorities will go straight to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for independent adjudication after local processes have been exhausted.
The civil enforcement industry is meanwhile calling on the Government to establish a joint committee in the House of Commons and House of Lords to review the draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill, which would provide a procedure for adjudicating on public service providers, including enforcement agents when acting on behalf of public bodies.
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Civil Enforcement Association, said: “These changes will streamline the process for complaints redress. The expertise and independent adjudication of the ombudsman gives an impartial picture of the scale of any problems in our industry. Three trade associations, local authorities, the courts service, the Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman have all recorded low levels of complaints.”
Responding to CIVEA’s announcement, Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “We already provide independent redress for complaints about the recovery of local taxation and parking debts by enforcement agents. Where a firm is acting on behalf of a local authority, their actions fall within our jurisdiction.
“Clear routes of redress are all the more important for people who want to raise concerns about debt issues they are facing, so we strongly believe complaints processes should be accessible, easy to understand and simple to use.”
The Ombudsman added: “We expect local authorities to ensure they have a clear process for dealing with complaints when they contract services out to enforcement firms, as we would with any commissioned service. It’s important this system is not protracted, does not require people to go through multiple complaints processes and also ensures there is appropriate signposting - including to our service - if a person remains dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint.
“We support any efforts to streamline the current process to ensure complaints are responded to in a timely manner, so we welcome CIVEA’s intention to stop adjudicating complaints on behalf of its members.”