Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

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CAB News 15 November 2019

Friday 15 November 2019

Earlier in the year we submitted a Freedom of Information request to local councils across England to ask about how they collect council tax arrears.

Today we published the national findings of this research including that last year, for every £1 referred to bailiffs for collection, councils received just 27p in return.

We know council tax debt is important to many local Citizens Advice and their relationship with their local authority. So we have produced a support pack to help you take action locally – this also includes a template press release.

Councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs – and it’s pushing households into debt

The Sun, PA on AOL, 13/11/2019

The Sun featured our call on councils to stop using bailiffs to collect debts over fears this “outdated” regulation is pushing struggling families deeper into debt.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax debt is now worryingly common but the collection system is broken.

“It doesn’t work for the people who are driven further into debt and it doesn’t work for councils or the taxpayer who are seeing millions of pounds go to waste each year.”

Council tax collection system is broken

LBC, 13/11/2019

Our research, showing households struggling to pay their council tax are being pushed into further debt as outdated regulations see councils resort to bailiffs to collect arrears, continues to get nationwide coverage.

The story featured on Sky News bulletins, BBC Radio 4’s News Briefing and LBC.

Principal Policy Manager, Joe Lane, told LBC that council tax arrears is the most common debt problem dealt with by Citizens Advice.

He said: “The regulations set by central government push councils into using inefficient methods of collection… and they’re adding on costs which push people further into debt.”

He added: “We want to see the next government look at those regulations and amend them to help councils collect debt in a more flexible way.”

How to spot Black Friday scams

Daily Mail, 13/11/2019, Grace Gausden

Our advice on how to avoid being scammed this Black Friday and Cyber Monday has featured in the Daily Mail.

The paper quoted Citizens Advice figures which show more than 13,000 people reported issues with online marketplaces in 2017, being hit by an average loss of £215, suggesting that an increasing number of customers are being duped online.

It also revealed that calls about problems with purchases on online marketplaces have increased by 35 per cent over the past four years.

The Mail also advised customers worried that something they’ve seen online might be a scam, to seek help from a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003.

Households could be billed twice for green tax after suppliers go bust

Yahoo Finance, 10/11/2019, August Graham

Our call for energy supply firms to pay their Renewable Obligations – so-called ‘green taxes’ – more regularly in order to protect consumers if a company goes out of business, has been highlighted by a financial website in a feature on the issue.

Yahoo Finance said: “Consumer champions Citizens Advice has highlighted the issues in the past. Chief executive Gillian Guy in June called on the Government to force suppliers to pay the tax more regularly, limiting the impact when one goes bust.”

Outsourcing of UK civil enforcement work causes concern

Financial Times, 10/11/2019, Gill Plimmer

Our research, published earlier this year, which showed a sharp rise in people seeking help with “bailiff-related issues”, and vulnerable consumers targeted by increasingly aggressive debt collection methods, has been used by the Financial Times.

The number of reported problems with bailiffs exceeded 103,000 in the 12 months to March 31 this year – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year – which Citizens Advice said was driven by “a rise in bailiffs not following the rules around rights of entry”.

Our figures showed nearly one in six of the incidents involved bailiffs “threatening to break in, or unlawfully doing so”, a rise of 13 per cent on the previous year.

Call to crack down on energy broker rip-offs which could cause small businesses to go bust

Mail on Sunday, 10/11/2019, p.107, Marc Shoffman

Our report Closing the Protection Gap, which calls for greater protections for microbusinesses – including a shake up of the way energy brokers are regulated – has featured in a substantial article in the Mail on Sunday.

Gillian Guy said: “The majority of brokers provide a trusted and valuable service. However, our evidence shows a minority exploit microbusinesses.

“We see cases of brokers employing aggressive sales tactics and not being transparent about fees.”

She added: “We’ve seen this lead to debt and disconnection. It ultimately increases the risk of business failure.”

Citizens Advice wants better regulation and, at a minimum, a mandatory code of practice.

In other news

Half of disability benefits appeals won in tribunal court.

Top UK firms ‘still a long way’ from hitting targets for women in senior roles.

Amazon and eBay ‘must block illicit nitrous oxide sales’.


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CAB News 08 November 2019

Friday 08 November 2019

Our election manifesto has been picked up in Your Money and a number of online trade outlets.

National

Citizens Advice says next government must act on “preventable problems”

Your Money, 07/11/2019, Emma Lunn

As part of its 2019 election manifesto, Citizens Advice is calling for major reforms across welfare, debt, housing, consumer markets and energy to prevent some of the problems faced by the millions of people who seek its help each year.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We know the problems that people face every day, because it’s us they turn to for advice and support. But many of these problems are preventable. The next government has a major opportunity to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives. From fixing the difficulties people face with housing, welfare and debt through to ensuring consumers are protected in the shift to net zero.”

This story also appeared in housing trade press Letting Agent Today and Specialist Finance Introducer.

Next government needs to ‘reset balance’ between landlords and tenants

24housing.co.uk, 06/11/2019

 

Image result for landlord tenant balance

 

Our housing proposals for the next next government was covered by the housing news website.

“Tenants who have done nothing wrong shouldn’t have to worry about losing their homes,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“The current situation where landlords can exploit section 21 to evict tenants who have made reasonable requests for repairs and maintenance must end.

“But any replacement legislation needs to be watertight, and not allow these so called revenge evictions to continue by the back door.

“We need a new deal for renting which establishes a fair balance between the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

“We think this can best be implemented by the establishment of a new housing body to work as a one-stop shop for the private rented sector, serving both landlords and tenants in setting and enforcing the rules.”

Energy firms slated for ‘ignoring elderly’

The Daily Express, pg. 2, 07/11/2019

Citizens Advice was cited in a Sheffield Hallam University study that found many energy companies ignore struggling customers until the amount of money they owe is significant. It found this is often people in vulnerable situations such as pensioners and sick and disabled people.

Elizabeth Errington, principal policy manager at Citizens Advice, said: “The experiences of participants in this research add to the chorus of evidence of energy suppliers failing to provide basic empathy to support vulnerable consumers.”

Housing

Can my landlord lock my thermostat in a box?

05/11/2019

Our housing advice was used extensively in the BBC’s and Metro’s coverage of a viral tweet that shows a private tenant’s thermostat in a ‘cage’.

Housing experts from Citizens Advice say the legality of a landlord-controlled thermostat is likely to rely on whether it results in hazards – excess cold or possibly extreme heat.

The tenants might consider trying to take control of the heating themselves by using electric heaters. There is a risk however that the landlord may respond negatively to a huge electricity bill, and perhaps seek to serve a section 21 notice (no fault eviction notice) to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term, or seek to alter the rent or other tenancy terms as a condition of any renewal.

Tories pledge to scrap controversial benefit freeze in 2020

The Independent, 03/11/2019, p.9, Ashley Cowburn

Millions of welfare claimants will receive an increase in their payments next year as the government confirmed the widely criticised benefit freeze will end in April 2020.

The austerity measure has been roundly blamed for squeezing low-income families in Britain, leaving individuals struggling to meet the costs of essentials such as food, rent and utility bills.

The Independent, in its coverage of the announcement, noted that according to recent data from Citizens Advice, nearly half (49 per cent) of claimants affected by the four-year benefit freeze have struggled to meet essential costs such as rent, food and household utility bills. More than half said they had lost sleep due to their financial situation.

We were also featured in the i’s coverage.

Get more money to burn

The Sun, 03/11/2019, p.40, Daniel Jones

The Sun’s “Mr Money” has featured our advice not to always pick the cheapest energy deal, but to also consider a company’s customer service record.

In an article outlining how people can save money this winter, the paper also said Citizens Advice could help people make sure they were receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.

In other news

The National Union of Students says more needs to be done to tackle landlords unfairly targeting students with deposit deductions at the end of their tenancies.

The government’s Universal Credit ads have been ruled as misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority.

TUC: household debt for average family now more than £14,000.

Institute of Public Policy Research: poorest hit hardest by cuts to public health spending.


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Next government must act on preventable problems, says Citizens Advice

Friday 08 November 2019

Citizens Advice is calling on the next government to take action to prevent some of the problems faced by the over 2.5 million people who seek its help each year.

As part of its 2019 election manifesto the charity is calling for major reforms across welfare, debt, housing, consumer markets and energy.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“At Citizens Advice, we know the problems that people face every day, because it’s us they turn to for advice and support. But many of these problems are preventable. The next government has a major opportunity to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives. From fixing the difficulties people face with housing, welfare and debt through to ensuring consumers are protected in the shift to net zero.

“The benefits system needs to provide enough for people to live on. Private renters should have safe and secure tenancies with landlords who are held accountable. And people who fall into debt need advice, support and to be treated fairly.

“Where existing markets are failing – like the £4 billion loyalty penalty people pay for staying with essential service providers – they need to be rebalanced in favour of consumers and prevent those who can least afford it from being ripped off.”

Proposals outlined in the charity’s manifesto include:

  • Welfare – ending the benefits freeze and increasing working-age benefits by 2% above inflation for 4 years beginning in April 2020, to help keep up with the cost of living

  • Debt – an independent bailiff regulator, and a free, clear and accessible bailiff complaints procedure to crack down on bailiffs who break the rules

  • Housing – abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notices and introduce indefinite tenancies in the private rented sector

  • Consumer markets – action to tackle the loyalty penalty, in which loyal customers are penalised to the tune of around £4 billion a year for staying with their providers in essential markets such as broadband, home insurance and mobiles

  • Energy – consumer protections must be built in at the start as new technology products and markets emerge as the UK transitions to a low-carbon economy.