BAILIFFS in Brent have been described as 'out of control' during a debate in Parliament.
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, said he had spoken to many families who believe they have been the victims of intimidating behaviour by bailiffs for failing to pay their council tax on time.
In one case bailiffs visited the home of Tahir Farhad, in Sudbury, to collect a debt of £2,300 while he was at work.
Mr Farhad claims the bailiffs pressurised his 70-year-old sick mother, Habib Nahid, who suffers with arthritis, to go to the bank and withdraw cash from her life savings to pay off her son's debt before they would leave her alone.
Mr Farhad was so disgusted with the bailiffs' actions he contacted Mr Gardiner. He said: "I couldn't believe it. The liability was in my name. I never disputed that. My mother is elderly and should never have been put under such pressure to go to the bank and withdraw her own money for a debt that wasn't hers. She was very upset.
"She was given two receipts with my name on but I never gave them the money and I wasn't even there. They were threatening to take the TV and putting pressure on an elderly pensioner. There were several witnesses who saw what happened who were also shocked."
But a Brent Council spokeswoman said Mr Farhad's mother volunteered to withdraw the money and that his sister took her to the bank while the bailiff waited at the house with a neighbour.
She said: "All bailiffs working for Brent Council sign a code of conduct and agree the procedures they will follow to recover money owed to the borough.
"When the bailiff visited Mr Farhad's house to recover the out standing council tax he was invited into the house by Mr Farhad's mother who was inside with Mr Farhad's sister and a neighbour. Mr Farhad's mother offered to repay her son's debt.
"But it should never have come to this. The council's finance department and bailiffs have made at least 15 attempts to contact Mr Farhad about his debt."
In another case, Mr Gardiner claimed two other constituents were forced to pawn their jewellery to pay their council tax bills even though the local authority had agreed to let them pay the money owed in instalments.
Speaking in Parliament before the summer holidays, he said: "Bailiffs are out of control in Brent, and the council is instructing them, even in cases in which it had entered into agreements with my constituents that they could pay their debts by instalment. We are all aware of the effects of the recession, and debt is likely to be on the rise. It is important that public institutions and bodies act appropriately."
A council spokeswoman said that if people are having difficulty paying their council tax they should call 020 8937 1790 for help.