Council claims £59,020 "costs" for single hearing.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Hambleton District Council,

On 05.07.2016 there was a sitting at the Magistrates Court to allow Council Tax debtors the opportunity to show why they have not paid the amount stated in a Complaint to the Magistrates clerk. Approximately a month previous to that date, you produced and sent the Magistrates Clerk's letter informing 908 "debtors" that they had been summoned to the Court for that date. (I shall refer to the term "debtors" whilst acknowleging the fact the debt recorded against one or more of them may be the result of the billing authority's maladministration.)

To allow you the authority to send the letters mentioned above you paid a Court fee of £2,724 you then added this fee to the debt of the debtors as well as your own fee of £56,296. Each debtor therefore had an extra £65 added to their debt.

What is the name of the Court Clerk on the letter you sent out?

The Court Clerk's letter refers to a "Summons". Do you have a copy of the Summons? Is there a list of 908 Council Tax accounts annexed to the Summons? Does the Summons and List bear the Court Seal?

Did any Court Official or Magistrate make any enquiries relating to the accuracy of the list? Did a billing authority officer swear an oath when reporting the list as accurate?

How many debtors on the list had started your complaints procedure regarding their Council Tax bill.

How many debtors on the list were Limited Companies?

How many accounts on the list were in the name of the same person?

Between sending the Court Clerk's letter and the Date of the sitting were any updated lists presented to the Court Clerk revealing one or more debtors had cleared their debts or proved they were not liable to pay the debt mentioned in the Court Clerk's letter?

On the day of the sitting were there any Magistrates present or were those present all civil servants? Was anyone with Judiciary Powers present at the sitting?

How many debtors attending showed that they had paid the debt or showed why they were not liable to pay the debt? Did a Billing Authority officer make a record of what they showed?

How many debtors attending were not made subject to the Liability Order dated 05.07.16?

How many Billing Authority's officers sat on the bench?

Do you hold a sealed or otherwise signed copy of a Liability Order dated 05.07.16 ? Is the list annexed to it the same list annexed to the Summons referred to in the Letter of the Court Clerk?

How many of the debtors have been imprisoned, lost their home through forced sale, or have been made bankrupt as a result of the Liability Order made on 05.07.16?

Considering all sittings there have been in as many years as you can reasonably look at, has a debtor ever had costs awarded in their favour or satisfied the Court that they are not liable to pay the debt demanded?

When Magistrates are satisfied one or more debtors on the list is not liable to pay the debt recorded against them, can there still be a Liability Order in respect of the other debtors on the list?

On court dates where there has been more than one sitting, is this due to a debtor requesting to appear in front of Magistrates to show why they are not liable for the debt? If so how many hearing dates have had more than one sitting for as far back as you can reasonably see?

Yours faithfully,

Lady Fleming

Customer Services Emails, Hambleton District Council

Thank you for your contact. Should a response be required, this will be sent to you within the next 10 working days. Responses to Freedom of Information Requests will be sent within the 20 day statutory period. If you wish to contact Hambleton District Council, our contact details are given below. Please visit our website at www.hambleton.gov.uk<http://www.hambleton.gov.uk>.

Customer Services, Hambleton District Council, Civic Centre, Stone Cross, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL6 2UU
Tel: 01609 779977
Fax: 01609 767228
Email: [email address]
Web: www.hambleton.gov.uk

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Susan Grant, Hambleton District Council

2 Atodiad

 

 

 

 

Dear lady Flemming

 

 

Please find below the replies to your freedom of information queries. Each
question has the reply next to it.

On 05.07.2016 there was a sitting at the Magistrates Court to allow
Council Tax debtors the opportunity to show why they have not paid the
amount stated in a Complaint to the Magistrates clerk.  Approximately a
month previous to that date, you produced and sent the Magistrates Clerk's
letter informing 908 "debtors" that they had been summoned to the Court
for that date.  (I shall refer to the term "debtors" whilst acknowleging
the fact the debt recorded against one or more of them may be the result
of the billing authority's maladministration.)

 

To allow you the authority to send the letters mentioned above you paid a
Court fee of £2,724 you then added this fee to the debt of the debtors as
well as your own fee of £56,296.  Each debtor therefore had an extra £65
added to their debt.

 

What is the name of the Court Clerk on the letter you sent out?

This is not held

 

The Court Clerk's letter refers to a "Summons".  Do you have a copy of the
Summons?  Is there a list of 908 Council Tax accounts annexed to the
Summons?  Does the Summons and List bear the Court Seal?

·         Hambleton did not retain a copy of the summons issued to the tax
payer at that time

·         There is a list of 908 Council Tax Liable parties for the above
mentioned complaints list

·         It does not bear the Court Seal, it has been signed by the court
Clerk

 

Did any Court Official or Magistrate make any enquiries relating to the
accuracy of the list?  Did a billing authority officer swear an oath when
reporting the list as accurate?

·         No record to answer as to whether any enquiries were made due to
the time elapsed in relation to the complaints list.

·         No oath is sworn at time of presenting complaints list to the
court for the issuing of a summons. An oath is sworn at the start of the
Liability Order hearing

 

How many debtors on the list had started your complaints procedure
regarding their Council Tax bill.

·         The no of debtors on the list is the number who started the
complaints procedure as this is the number of debtors who were summonsed.

·         If you require any further information please clarify the
information you require.

 

 

How many debtors on the list were Limited Companies?

·         13

 

How many accounts on the list were in the name of the same person?

·         I can therefore confirm that we do hold this information but
unfortunately it is not in an easily retrievable format nor is there an
automated mechanism that would allow us to easily collate the requested
data. In order to obtain this information the Council would have to 
individually search 908 files, taking approximately 3mins per file,
totalling 45.5 hrs. Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
2000 states that the Council is not obliged to comply with a request for
information if the authority estimates that the costs of complying with
the request would exceed the appropriate limit. The Freedom of Information
and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 has set
the appropriate limit as £450, based on a charge at £25 per hour.

 

Between sending the Court Clerk's letter and the Date of the sitting were
any updated lists presented to the Court Clerk revealing one or more
debtors had cleared their debts or proved they were not liable to pay the
debt mentioned in the Court Clerk's letter?

·         Any accounts which had been paid in full or where the debtor was
found not to be liable between the issue of the summons and the Liability
Order hearing would be removed from the list presented to the Magistrates
at the Liability order Hearing.

 

On the day of the sitting were there any Magistrates present or were those
present all civil servants?  Was anyone with Judiciary Powers present at
the sitting?

·         Hambleton District Council do not hold this information

 

How many debtors attending showed that they had paid the debt or showed
why they were not liable to pay the debt?  Did a Billing Authority officer
make a record of what they showed?

·         No record  to answer as to whether any enquiries were made due
to the time elapsed in relation to the Court date

·         If a debtor attends the court a note is made on their individual
record. To search 908 individual records would take 45.5 hrs

 

How many debtors attending were not made subject to the Liability Order
dated 05.07.16?

·         None – All liability Order requests presented to the court at
the hearing in relation to the above mentioned complaints list were
granted.

 

How many Billing Authority's officers sat on the bench?

·         None

 

Do you hold a sealed or otherwise signed copy of a Liability Order dated
05.07.16 ?  Is the list annexed to it the same list annexed to the Summons
referred to in the Letter of the Court Clerk?

·         The signed court list is the liability Order list and this is
retained by Hambleton District Council.

·         The list contains liable parties who have not paid in full or
found not liable since the issue of the summons, signed complaints list.

 

How many of the debtors have been imprisoned, lost their home through
forced sale, or have been made bankrupt as a result of the Liability Order
made on 05.07.16?

·         None

 

Considering all sittings there have been in as many years as you can
reasonably look at, has a debtor ever had costs awarded in their favour or
satisfied the Court  that they are not liable to pay the debt demanded?

·         No costs awarded in the last 4 years

·         If a debtor has satisfied the court that they are not liable it
would be recorded on their account, to check all 908 accounts would exceed
18 hours.

·         I can therefore confirm that we do hold this information but
unfortunately it is not in an easily retrievable format nor is there an
automated mechanism that would allow us to easily collate the requested
data. In order to obtain this information the Council would have to
 individually search 908 files, taking approximately 3 minutes per file,
totalling 45.5 hrs. Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
2000 states that the Council is not obliged to comply with a request for
information if the authority estimates that the costs of complying with
the request would exceed the appropriate limit. The Freedom of Information
and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 has set
the appropriate limit as £450, based on a charge at £25 per hour.

 

 

When Magistrates are satisfied one or more debtors on the list is not
liable to pay the debt recorded against them, can there still be a
Liability Order in respect of the other debtors on the list?

·         Yes

 

On court dates where there has been more than one sitting, is this due to
a debtor requesting to appear in front of Magistrates to show why they are
not liable for the debt?  If so how many hearing dates have had more than
one sitting for as far back as you can reasonably see?

·         If a debtor appears before the magistrates on the day of the
liability Order Hearing, it is one sitting.  If a Liability Order request
is adjourned it will be heard at another hearing date.  Hambleton do not
hold these records apart from on individual records and to check would
take 45.5 hrs.

·         I can therefore confirm that we do hold this information but
unfortunately it is not in an easily retrievable format nor is there an
automated mechanism that would allow us to easily collate the requested
data. In order to obtain this information the Council would have to
 individually search 908 files, taking approximately 3 minutes per file,
totalling 45.5 hrs. Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
2000 states that the Council is not obliged to comply with a request for
information if the authority estimates that the costs of complying with
the request would exceed the appropriate limit. The Freedom of Information
and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 has set
the appropriate limit as £450, based on a charge at £25 per hour.

 

 

 

‘Hambleton District Council now considers that it has complied with your
request. If you are unhappy with the way in which we have handled your
request, the fee we have charged, or the reasons we have given for not
providing information, you have the right to appeal. The review of the
request and information provided will be a two-stage process.

 

1) If you are unhappy with the response from the Council, you will be able
to ask for an internal review of that decision by a senior officer by
writing to the Information Governance Manager at
[1][email address] or Information Governance Manager,
Internal Audit Service, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AL.  An officer
who was not involved with the original decision will be appointed to
conduct the internal review.  The officer will evaluate your request, the
information held by the Council and the initial response which was sent to
your request.  You will then be informed of the outcome of the review in
due course.

 

2) Following the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you can seek
an independent review from the Information Commissioner.  Requests for a
review by the Information Commissioner should be made in writing directly
to:

 

The Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545 745

Email: [2][email address]

 

 

 

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Website: [9]www.hambleton.gov.uk

 

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