Hyndburn is in the top five local authorities in the country for use of debt recovery bailiffs following a massive increase in their use over the last two years, according to latest research.
Hyndburn council instructed bailiffs more than 12,000 times to collect debts owed by individuals and businesses during 2014/15, according to research by the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, an increase of 149 per cent from 2012/13.
More than 95 per cent of the 12,125 referrals were chasing residents for unpaid council tax, up from just 4,865 two years ago.
The borough is ranked fourth out of 326 local authorities in England and Wales for bailiff use, with more than three referrals per 10 households.
The Money Advice Trust report said non-payment of council tax in Hyndburn, amounts to arrears of £5.5 million, with bailiffs also being used 600 times to collect unpaid business rates.
The figures were revealed by the council after a Freedom of Information request as part of National Debtline’s new Stop The Knock campaign.
Hyndburn council said the increase takes into account around 2,700 cases of multiple referrals for the same debt.
Council leader Coun Miles Parkinson said the council also referred people to the Citizens Advice Bureau and Money Advice Trust.
He said: “We have a duty to collect taxes so that we can continue to deliver services for all our residents, however, as some people fall into debt at some point in their lives, we are sympathetic and work out affordable payment plans to help them.
“Bailiffs are only ever a last resort where residents continually avoid engaging with us or continually fail to pay.”
Earlier this year a separate report by the Children's Society found that Hyndburn was second in the country for the use of bailiffs chasing council tax debts.
A report published by the Observer earlier this week also revealed that benefits cheats have cost the borough's taxpayers more than £800,000 over the past three years.
Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said the council’s bailiff use remained ‘too high’ and could ‘deepen debt problems’.
She said research showed councils using bailiffs the most were less effective at collecting council tax arrears and said the Trust urged councils to focus on debt prevention and early intervention.
She added: “Councils are facing significant funding pressures and of course have a duty to collect what they are owed.”
For advice visit nationaldebtline.org or phone 0808 808 4000.