Bailiffs were sent to collect more than 9,000 debts last year by Swindon Borough Council.

The figures were revealed in a freedom of information request by charity the Money Advice Trust, which showed in 2019-19 the council employed recovery agents in 9,472 cases.

But bosses at Euclid Street say they only use bailiffs when necessary - and the figures show a 31 per cent drop, nearly a third, in use of agents.

That would please the trust, whose research shows a national increase in the use of bailiffs of seven per cent last year, up to 2.6m separate cases.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the charity, said: "Bailiff action is harmful to people in debt.

"It should only ever be used as a last resort, and can be avoided by early intervention, providing free debt advice, and agreeing affordable repayment arrangements.

"We will continue to work constructively with councils to help them reduce their bailiff use, and to impress upon central government the urgent need for the national policy changes that are required to quicken the pace of change."

In the last financial year Euclid Street asked bailiffs to recover 3625 cases of council tax debt; 5,705 parking charges and 138 unpaid business rates.

In Wiltshire during he same period, the council employed bailiffs 10,939 times, a six per cent increase on the previous year

Deputy leader of Swindon Borough Council and its cabinet member for finance Russell Holland said: “I need to be absolutely clear that the council will only use bailiffs as a last resort.

“We make every effort to help people who struggle to pay council tax but we can only help if people make contact with us to make arrangements.

"We will routinely make arrangements with individuals who struggle to pay."

One of the council's pledges is to provide early support so that Swindon residents can avoid falling into debt.

Council taxpayers now get text and email reminders and voicemails before letters are sent out. Officers also try to ring people in arrears for council tax to try and work out a solution.

It has worked with Swindon Citizens' Advice Bureau to create a 'money mentors' service which provides help and advice on budgeting and debt, and is promoting the Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union. That's a mutual society where people can save and also take out low-value loans at lower rates of interest than on the high street when needed.

Coun Holland added: "Anyone struggling to pay their Council Tax should contact us urgently on 0345 302 2316. We are doing a lot of work to help people who struggle financially and further information and help is available on the Council’s website"

The Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union has collection points for savers every week in Highworth, Parks, Penhill and Toothill.

For more information or to inquire about membership, saving and loans, visit