Sep 6 2011 By David Baker
Motorist John Field
A PENSIONER who was wrongly chased by bailiffs over a parking fine has slammed Harrow Council for taking a fee from bailiffs - claiming it promotes parking enforcement as a money maker.
It was revealed this week the council will vie to double the fees they get from bailiffs, contracted by them to recoup unpaid parking fines, council tax and business rates.
At present Harrow has contracts with three separate firms who give four per cent of their fee to the council, but when the contracts go out for tender early next year this could rise to as much as eight per cent.
Pensioner John Field, from Hayes, claims the move is no surprise to him as he considers the whole thing to be 'a money making scheme'.
Mr Field, 65, was chased by bailiffs for £445 after he received two penalty notices for the same offence in Harrow View last September, in a clerical error.
Despite paying one of the original £50 fines, admitting fault, he appealed against the second fine on the grounds that it was the same offence.
He said: "Even though this was there mistake and I admitted fault to the genuine offence I was chased for months by bailiffs for money I didn't owe.
"I am an old age pensioner, who lives with his 88-year-old mother and has a wife in hospital and although I'm not stupid I felt I had to pay because I was really up against the wall.
"I had no choice. I then got a lawyer to work to get the money back and although I got the bailiffs fees back, I had to fork out nearly as much on legal fees, it's completely beyond a joke.
"To make matters worse, even though I have paid that money and even had it given back, I am now getting chased by the bailiffs again. I must have made more than 50 phone calls about this whole saga.
"It seems to me that someone somewhere thinks that I am weak and have caved before so they might as well chase me for cash whenever they can, it seems like a money making scheme to me."
Fernando Silverio, Divisional Director of collections and housing benefit at Harrow Council, has defended the council's decision to take a fee.
He said: “Harrow residents rely on the services we provide, and we need to collect council tax, business rates and other charges to pay for them.
“We offer a range of help to anyone who is unable to pay for whatever reason, to spread their payments. Instructing bailiffs to recover debt is an absolute last resort and we must go to court to get agreement that this is the only option left to us.
“We do not pay bailiffs to recover debt. Instead they charge fees to the debtors and five years ago we agreed that the Council would receive around 4% of those fees to help cover our costs.
“With the contract ending next year, and the difficult financial climate we are in, there is an opportunity to look at improving the deal we have with the bailiffs.
"Increasing our income will help cover costs and pay for the services we provide and this is an innovative way of meeting the funding challenge we face with absolutely no impact on the vast majority of our residents.”