Council Tax Communication

Alan Rice made this Freedom of Information request to Bristol City Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Bristol City Council,

For both Council Year 2014/15 broken down by quarter and the first quarter of 2015/16:
(a) What was the total number of queries BCC received regarding Council Tax during the period?
(b) How many of those queries related to the inability to pay?
(c) How many of the initial queries were through the (1) BCC website, (2) by direct e-mail, (3) by telephone, (4) by letter and (5) in person?
(d) For each method of communication how many clients were satisfied by the first response by BCC, how many clients required a series of conversations to be satisfied, how many clients remained unsatisfied and how many clients simply gave up before a conclusion was reached?
(e) How many are registered on the online Council Tax system and how many have experienced problems in registering or password difficulties? In both cases how many are aged 60 or over?
(f) How many complaints have been received on failure to get through by telephone and what is the average and the longest waiting time to answer?
(g) What is the average and longest response to e-mails and to letters?
(h) How many clients initially assessed for Full Council Tax were found to be eligible for Council Tax Support?
(i) How much officer time was spent on queries on Council Tax totally and how much was spent on Council Tax Support specifically? What is the financial cost to the Council of the officer time both totally and on Council Tax Support?
(j) For 2014-15 what is the total cost and the average cost of legal and bailiff fees on recovery of non-payment of Council Tax?
(k) How much Council Tax remains uncollected both for Full Council Tax and those eligible for Council Tax support?

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rice

Freedom of Information, Bristol City Council

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No Reply @ Bristol, Bristol City Council

Dear Alan Rice 
This is a courtesy email to let you know your Public Information
Request has been received on : 06/06/2016. 
Your unique reference number is "CRN00058385 ". Please keep this
number safe, as you may be required to provide it in the future. 
If you need to add further information concerning your case or
require an update about your response date, please email
[email address] 
Regards,
Customer Relations Team

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"No Reply @ Bristol" <noreply@bristol.gov.uk>, Bristol City Council

You sent us a Freedom of Information request on 06/06/2016

Your request number is CRN00058385

We’ve looked at your request and you should receive a reply on or
before 04/07/2016 12:21

This will be 20 working days since your original request.

If you don’t hear from us by this time please contact
[Bristol City Council request email]
Contact details we have for you
Alan Rice
 [FOI #337893 email]

 

Thanks

Bristol City Council

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"No Reply @ Bristol" <noreply@bristol.gov.uk>, Bristol City Council

You sent us a Freedom of Information request on 06/06/2016

Your request number is CRN00058385

Our reply to your request is:  

Dear Mr Rice,

Initially I must advise that the information you have requested in
relation to queries is not recorded on a quarterly basis.
The demand on the service can fluctuate from month to month or even
week to week dependant on many factors some of which I have set out
below:
i) The annual issue of citywide bills
ii) The issue of reminder notices, summons and other recovery
documents. This is a structured programme throughout the year.
iii) Citywide reviews of various discounts exemption. Some of these
are annual and some bi-annual.
iv) The buoyancy of the housing market, both sales and rental
resulting in high number of amendments.        
In addition, some of the information requested is too detailed and
the time spent recording such information would outweigh any benefits
and would detract staff from actually dealing with enquiries. Also in
some cases the actual function is no longer a performance indicator.
Therefore, bearing in mind the above I have provided the information
requested based on how it is held by the service. As the years
indicated are retrospective the information is on an annual basis.

Question (a)       What was the total number of queries BCC received
regarding Council Tax during the period?
Reply: excluding telephone or in person which are dealt with by
separate teams, the total written communications received by the
council tax administration team were:
2014/15 – 202,116
2015/16 – 195,570

Question (b)      How many of those queries related to the inability
to pay?
Reply:  we do not hold this information without analysing every item
of work.

Question (c)       How many of the initial queries were through the
(1) BCC website, (2) by direct e-mail, (3) by telephone, (4) by
letter and (5) in person?
Reply:
                               2014/15                 2015/16
(1) BCC website  – 64,280                  75,588     
(2) Direct e-mail – 24,763                  23,530
(3) Letter -----------113,073                96,452  
(4) In person – as a large number of visits are unscheduled or what
could be described as “walk up” we do not hold this
information.         

                            
Question (d)      For each method of communication how many clients
were satisfied by the first response by BCC, how many clients
required a series of conversations to be satisfied, how many clients
remained unsatisfied and how many clients simply gave up before a
conclusion was reached?
Reply: we do not hold this information.

Question (e)      How many are registered on the online Council Tax
system and how many have experienced problems in registering or
password difficulties?  In both cases how many are aged 60 or over?
Reply:  As at 21.6.16 there are 37,201 on line council tax accounts
of which 14,605 are live accounts.
We do not record the numbers who have experienced registering or
password problems although speaking to the officers who resolve these
issues the numbers are minimal. There is no requirement for citizens
to supply their age so we do not hold the details requested. 

Question (f)  How many complaints have been received on failure to
get through by telephone and what is the average and the longest
waiting time to answer?
Reply: - Complaints are rarely solely in relation to the telephone
service as a citizens reason for  contacting the office in the first
place is because they have an enquiry. Any issue regarding the
telephone service would therefore form a supplementary  part of
their  complaint. Because of this we do not hold the details
requested without analysing each complaint.
The May 2016 figures for waiting times are:
average call wait time – 1 min 44 sec
longest wait – 38 mins 23 secs (I have been advised that this was due
to extenuating circumstances)

Question(g)        What is the average and longest response to
e-mails and to letters?
Reply:   This is no longer a performance indicator so we do not hold
this information. We of course aim to answer all correspondence in a
timely manner bearing in mind demand and staff resources.

Question (h)      How many clients initially assessed for Full
Council Tax were found to be eligible for Council Tax Support?
Reply:  we do not hold this information. In practice there are
numerous scenarios that can affect when this takes place.  

Question (i) How much officer time was spent on queries on Council
Tax totally and how much was spent on Council Tax Support
specifically?  What is the financial cost to the Council of the
officer time both totally and on Council Tax Support?
Reply:  virtually all the work undertaken by both Council tax and
Benefit administration officers can be defined as queries as the
majority of work is driven by the public. As with any organisation
managers roles differ and tend to more operational and related to
business development.
Total budgets are:
                                       
2014/15                            2015/16
Benefits team -           £3,362,000                       
£3,146,108
Local Taxation -          £2,212,252                     
  £2,347,888         

  
Question (j)        For 2014-15 what is the total cost and the
average cost of legal and bailiff fees on recovery of non-payment of
Council Tax?
Reply:  I am unsure exactly what you mean by the “average cost of
legal fees”.
For summonses the costs are a fixed amount currently:
 £103.00 (£100.00 to the Council and £3.00 to the Bristol Magistrates
Court).
The total number of summonses issued in:
2014/15 – 22,622
2015/16 – 18,497
Please bear in mind that these numbers will also include summonses
for balances still outstanding from previous years so they do not
necessary represent debts solely for the years shown.
The majority of enforcement agent (bailiff) fees are also fixed
amounts:
£75.00 compliance fee upon receipt of an account forwarded from the
Council.
£235.00 Taking Control of Goods fee, (ie.visit to the property).
If the outstanding balance exceeds £1500 then an additional fee of
7.5% can be applied to the balance exceeding £1500.
The contacts between the Council and Enforcement Agents are on a
no-fee basis.

Question (k)       How much Council Tax remains uncollected both for
Full Council Tax and those eligible for Council Tax support?
Reply:  As we are only scrutinised on the total outstanding at the
end of a financial year we do not hold details on the split between
those accounts without council tax reduction and those receiving some
level of council tax reduction.
The total arrears outstanding as at:
31 March 2015 - £12,801,000
31 March 2016 - £13,654,000

This response should answer your request in full.

If you’re not satisfied with our response, or if you want to appeal
against any exemptions:

Email: [1][Bristol City Council request email]
Write to: Customer Relations (100TS), PO Box 3176, Bristol, BS3 9FS

If you’re still not satisfied with our response:

You can complain to the Information Commissioner. 
Find out how to do this on the Information Commissioner Office
website
 (link to [2]http://ico.org.uk/concerns)

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Thanks

Bristol City Council

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References

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