Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship

Gwyn Worth made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to South Northamptonshire District 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 llwyddiannus.

Dear South Northamptonshire District Council,

A council taxpayer who owes more than just the current year's liability runs the risk of incurring additional recovery costs through a further application for a liability order if payments which are intended for the current year's liability are allocated by the council's computer to the previous year's liability. This would most likely happen where a non specific payment is made and the computer software is set to automatically allocate these payments to the oldest year's debt.

Councils computer systems have the necessary flexibility to be set to allow non specific payments to be allocated to the arrears or the current year's liability.

I understand that the majority of billing authorities have their computer software set to ensure that their customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship, i.e. so non specific payments are allocated to the current year's liability.

How does South Northamptonshire Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Admin, CCC (SNC), South Northamptonshire District Council

1 Atodiad

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South Northamptonshire District Council

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Kind regards

FOI Admin
Direct Tel: 01327 322287

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Sally Matthews,

 

Dear Gwyn

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Ref 10100054111

 

 

Further to your recent request under the Freedom of Information Act please
see our response below.

 

Non - specific payments are allocated to the oldest year unless the oldest
year is subject to an attachment of earnings, attachment of benefit or
enforcement agent then it is allocated to the oldest year which is subject
to either a payment arrangement or one or more combined instalments for
the current year.

                                                                                                                                                               

All payments are checked on a daily basis.

 

 

If you are not satisfied with this response, you may contact the Council's
Freedom of Information Officer at the above address or at
[1][email address].  If you are still not satisfied with the
Council’s response you are advised to contact the Information Commissioner
directly at the Information Commissioners Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF or on [2][email address].

 

.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Sally Matthews

FOI Rep

Finance and Procurement

01295 221829

[3][email address]

 

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contain legally privileged information. You should not disclose its
contents to any other person. If you are not the intended recipient,
please notify the sender immediately.
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risk of computer software viruses, it cannot accept liability for any
damage which you may sustain as a result of such viruses. You should carry
out your own virus checks before opening the e-mail(and/or any
attachments).
Unless expressly stated otherwise, the contents of this e-mail represent
only the views of the sender and does not impose any legal obligation upon
the Council or commit the Council to any course of action.

References

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2. mailto:[email address]
3. mailto:[email address]

Sally Matthews,

 

Dear Gwyn

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Ref 10100054111

 

Many apologies the following was omitted from the first response.

 

SNC allocate payments in accordance with legislation if a payment matches
the current instalment or an instalment from a payment arrangement.
                                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

If you are not satisfied with this response, you may contact the Council's
Freedom of Information Officer at the above address or at
[1][email address].  If you are still not satisfied with the
Council’s response you are advised to contact the Information Commissioner
directly at the Information Commissioners Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF or on [2][email address].

 

.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Sally Matthews

FOI Rep

Finance and Procurement

01295 221829

[3][email address]

 

This e-mail (including any attachments) may be confidential and may
contain legally privileged information. You should not disclose its
contents to any other person. If you are not the intended recipient,
please notify the sender immediately.
Whilst the Council has taken every reasonable precaution to minimise the
risk of computer software viruses, it cannot accept liability for any
damage which you may sustain as a result of such viruses. You should carry
out your own virus checks before opening the e-mail(and/or any
attachments).
Unless expressly stated otherwise, the contents of this e-mail represent
only the views of the sender and does not impose any legal obligation upon
the Council or commit the Council to any course of action.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[email address]
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear Sally Matthews,

Thank you for your reply. Can you please confirm that the following has been stated correctly:

"...then it is allocated to the oldest year which is subject to either a payment arrangement or one or more combined instalments for the current year."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Sally Matthews,

Dear Gwyn

Apologies for confusion. I have gone back to the relevant section and have been given the amended response below which will hopefully clarify the response to your request.

Non-specific payments are allocated to the oldest year unless they are payments for debts at attachment of earnings, attachment of benefit or enforcement agent stage. These payments will be allocated to the year that these stages are sitting in.

Payments for arrangements or which match an instalment or a combined instalment amount will be allocated to the relevant year.

All other non-specific payments will be allocated to the oldest debt and moved on the instruction of the rate payer to the year that the payment was intended.

Kind regards
Sally Matthews

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Sally Matthews,

Thank you for clarifying my query. I consider South Northamptonshire District Council has provided the information I requested, however, the purpose of this exercise was to ascertain whether or not the principles surrounding the appropriation of payments were being adhered to.

R v Miskin Lower Justices (1953)

It was held in R v Miskin Lower Justices, that where an amount obviously relates to a specific liability, it would be an unwarranted assumption to allocate the payment elsewhere.

If no instruction is given at the time of payment, then the council has a duty to allocate payment to the account which it is most beneficial to the debtor to reduce. That would be in the majority of cases the current liability if the consequences of allocating payment to the arrears meant that the customer was subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.

I understand by the council indicating that there are no measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor (other than relying on customer instruction) that the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are not being complied with. If the laws of appropriation were being complied with, an unmatched payment allocated to the oldest debt (having the consequences of putting the current year's liability also in arrears) would be reallocated to the current year's liability on account of the circumstances implying that this was the debtor's intention (least burdensome for the debtor).

If it appears I have misunderstood anything by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Sally Matthews,

I am currently out of the office until Tuesday 14 November. My e-mails are
not being forwarded. I will get back to you on my return.

This e-mail (including any attachments) may be confidential and may
contain legally privileged information. You should not disclose its
contents to any other person. If you are not the intended recipient,
please notify the sender immediately.
Whilst the Council has taken every reasonable precaution to minimise the
risk of computer software viruses, it cannot accept liability for any
damage which you may sustain as a result of such viruses. You should carry
out your own virus checks before opening the e-mail(and/or any
attachments).
Unless expressly stated otherwise, the contents of this e-mail represent
only the views of the sender and does not impose any legal obligation upon
the Council or commit the Council to any course of action.

Sally Matthews,

Dear Gwyn

The Senior Revenues and Recovery Officer has confirmed that payments are checked daily and if non-specific then the system will automatically allocate them to oldest debt.

However, when they are checked, an officer will allocate them to the year that is most beneficial to the customer. i.e. that will stop further costs being incurred.

Kind regards
Sally

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Sally Matthews,

Dear Gwyn

The Senior Revenues and Recovery Officer has confirmed that that payments are checked daily and if non-specific then the system will automatically allocate them to oldest debt.

However, when they are checked, an officer will allocate them to the year that is most beneficial to the customer. i.e. that will stop further costs being incurred.

I hope this is sufficient for your needs.

Kind regards
Sally Matthews

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Sally Matthews,

Thank you for clarifying your response. It is evident that the overall approach complies with appropriation principles, i.e. the circumstances are evaluated and payment allocated in the best interests of the customer.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth