We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Warren Bell please sign in and let everyone know.

Breakdown of staffing costs and calculations approved by the magistrates for council tax summonses & liability orders.

We're waiting for Warren Bell to read recent responses and update the status.

Dear Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council,

Please provide a detailed and comprehensive breakdown of staffing costs and calculations as requested by any individual person who is involved in Revenue and Benefits and the collection of council tax.
Please provide a more detailed breakdown of costs for each and every member of staff in BCP and Bournemouth Borough Councils employment involved in Council Tax, including and not limited to; Names of all individual officers working in Revenue and Benefits and council tax recovery, their specific title, and role,
Court Officer/s
Revenue and assessments manager/s
Revenues team leader/s
Senior revenues officer/s
Recovery officers/s, who's time is taken into consideration when calculating the costs for council tax summonses. A detailed breakdown of their involvement including time and hours. It is believed the Council has breached High Court Case ruling of: CO/976/2014
Rev Paul Nicholson v Tottenham Magistrates, because adding unreasonable costs to the claim was unlawful.

Yours faithfully,
Warren Bell

BCP Council Enquiries, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

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Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

Freedom of Information Request
I am writing to acknowledge your request for information received by BCP Council on 01/08/2020.

We are dealing with your request and will be in contact with you again.

A response will be made within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you have asked for, or explaining why we cannot supply it. If we need any further clarification we will contact you.

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

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Dear Mr Bell,

Information Request – Freedom of Information Act

Further to your request for information received on 01/08/2020 please find attached the material that you asked for.

We are unable to give out names and salaries as this is personal information that we are unable to release.

I hope that this deals with your request satisfactorily.

The information supplied to you is subject to copyright protection under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it (not including logos) for non-commercial purposes. You must re-use it accurately and not in a misleading context, and acknowledge us as your source. Re-use for commercial purposes may require a licence. Initial enquiries about re-using all or part of this information for commercial purposes should be directed to the Council’s Information Governance Team who can be contacted by email at [email address], or in writing to:

BCP Council
Legal and Democratic
Bourne Avenue
Bournemouth
BH2 6DY

Where third party copyright material has been provided, you must ensure you have gained the permission of the third party before reproducing the information. If you are unsure as to whether copyright applies, please contact the third party for clarification.

Following a reorganisation of local government in Dorset, this response is from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. Information provided will cover these 3 areas.

If you are dissatisfied with this response you can ask for an internal review. The purpose of an internal review is to assess how your Freedom of Information request was handled in the first instance and to determine whether the original response provided met with the requirements of the legislation. You can request an internal review by email to BCP Council Enquiries [email address]. You should make a review request within 40 working days of this response.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s review you have the right to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Contact details for the Information Commissioner can be found at: https://ico.org.uk/

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,

Dear Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council,
I understand the costs you have supplied, but you still have not given me a copy of that breakdown, how the council came to those figures. I want a copy of the working of those figures, they can not just be plucked out of thin air.

Yours sincerely,
Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

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Dear Mr Bell,

Thank you for your recent request. The Court were advised of the intention to change the court costs on 6 August 2018, the attached documents were used to calculate the costs and were approved by the Council. The word document contains more information that previously supplied. A further breakdown of the total expenditure figure is not available.

The costs of Summons's and Liability Orders are regularly reviewed to ensure the Council is not over or under charging. Whenever the costs are changed, it is only with prior contact with the Court.

Full details of the Council’s budget and expenditure are available on our website.

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Thank you very much for your response supplying the breakdown of the council's cost in gaining the summons. On of the costs the council claimed as costs incurred is 'customer support', can you please send me a copy of the costs customer support services incurred.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

£266,000 was the figure included in the calculations as the cost for the Customer Access Team answering telephone calls, covering the public counter and providing support for processing post and emails.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Please could you explain why you are claiming £266,000 customer support services as a cost 'incurred' for gaining council tax summonses?

Yours sincerely,
Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 stipulate that costs incurred by the authority in connection with the application of the summons are able to be included. The Customer Services team process incoming phone calls and update changes to accounts on behalf of the Council Tax Team. This is a cost incurred in processing Council Tax accounts up to and including the summons.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Clark

Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team

SVPP Operations

T. 0345 034 4569

bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Helen Barker left an annotation ()

R (Nicolson) v Tottenham Magistrates [2015] EWHC 1252 (Admin)

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Adm...

The judgment above provides some general guidance regarding Council Tax Liability Order court costs and give clues (paragraphs 35 and 46) as to what should not be included in the costs and an approach that might be legitimate in respect of averaging the costs.

“It is clear that there must be a sufficient link between the costs in question and the process of obtaining the liability order. It would obviously be impermissible (for example) to include in the costs claimed any element referable to the costs of executing the order after it was obtained, or to the overall administration of council tax in the area concerned.” (Paragraph 35)

"In principle, therefore, provided that the right types of costs and expenses are taken into account, and provided that due consideration is given to the dangers of double-counting, or of artificial inflation of costs, it may be a legitimate approach for a local authority to calculate and aggregate the relevant costs it has incurred in the previous year, and divide that up by the previous (or anticipated) number of summonses over twelve months so as to provide an average figure which could be levied across the board in "standard" cases.." (Paragraph 46)

However, the above does not go so far as to specify what the right types of costs and expenses are, plus the 1992 Council Tax Regulations (and associated guidance) also apply so any provisions in those capable of establishing what are "relevant costs" need taking into account. Crucially, the possibility that the approach of averaging the costs is conditional upon the right types of costs and expenses being taken into account and being mindful of the dangers of artificially inflating the costs.

Government guidance from 1993 and 2013 both provide within them that "the Court may wish to be satisfied that the amount claimed by way of costs in any individual case is no more than that reasonably incurred by the authority". They do so because the court is obliged to hear individually anyone wishing to raise a defence and regulation 35(1) of the Regulations provides that a single liability order may deal with one person and one amount.

The streamlining of the process, i.e. by hearing cases of all the defendants in a bulk application who decline the invitation to defend themselves would if the law was properly applied be met with a forfeiture of costs income because only expenditure which is common to every defendant may lawfully be included in a standard sum. For example, even if expenditure attributable to engaging with customers agreeing payment arrangements was not impermissible for the reasons discussed, they would not otherwise be deemed "relevant costs" to be included in the calculation because the expenditure is not common to every defendant but also because it would be impermissible to include in the costs any element referable to the overall administration of council tax in the area concerned (para 35, Tottenham judgment).

Expanding further on the concept of "reasonably incurred". If the costs are to be recharged lawfully to the customer it must have been reasonable for the council to have incurred them. Any expenditure recharged to the customer in respect of costs has not been reasonably incurred which is attributable to activity carried out by the council above what is necessary to secure the court order. Obtaining the order is merely a formality and it functions simply as the vehicle empowering the council to make use of a range of enforcement measures to pursue monies owed should it be necessary once it is in place, so with that in mind and that applications are made en masse, then the vast majority of costs typically claimed by local authorities are not necessary in a process which amounts to no more than seeking permission from the court.

Expenditure attributable to work carried out, which is clearly by its nature referable to the overall administration (in the area of council tax concerned) would not by virtue of it coinciding with when the complaint is in progress be sufficient to link it to the actual process of obtaining the liability order. This is separable from any that is permissible to be included in the costs claimed and would need omitting from the calculation because it would not be reasonable to expect those paying them to subsidise general administration or to be exploited as a means of funding revenues/recovery staff - and - because it is not common to every defendant.

Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Please tell me if customer support services deal just with council tax calls or do they also take other calls, such as housing benefits, etc. Does The Customer Services team process incoming phone calls and update changes to housing benefit accounts?

Yours sincerely,

Warren Bell

PAUL PATTERSON left an annotation ()

Megan Clark states in her reply 30th September 2020 last sentence..'This is a cost incurred in processing Council Tax accounts up to and including the summons.'

The council can not lawfully charge for processing council tax accounts as a cost 'incurred' to gain the summons.
Prosessing council tax accounts has nothing to do with gaining the summons, they can only charge for processing the sumons.
All so The Customer Support Team can not charge for answering telephone calls for council tax accounts, this is not a cost 'incurred' in gaining the summons.

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

The Customer Service team do provide cover for other services such as Housing Benefit, which is why only a percentage of their budget has been taken into account in the calculation of court costs.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Thank you for your speedy reply. As you have stated Customer Service team does provide cover for other services such as Housing Benefit, could you please now supply a detailed breakdown of all the other services Customer Service provide cover to? Please include the following:
1. A percentage of their time and costs for each service they provide cover for.
2. The number of employees working in Customer Service.
3. The number of employees in Customer Service who deal with council tax summonses
4. Have the council ever had or conducted a time and motion study on Customer Service employee's time taken in dealing with council tax summonses.

Yours sincerely,
Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

Freedom of Information Request
I am writing to acknowledge your request for information received by BCP Council on 08/10/2020.

We are dealing with your request and will be in contact with you again.

A response will be made within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you have asked for, or explaining why we cannot supply it. If we need any further clarification we will contact you.

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

Information Request – Freedom of Information Act

Further to your request for information received on 08/10/2020 please find below in your request the material that you asked for.

I hope that this deals with your request satisfactorily.

Obtaining information for Freedom of Information requests takes a considerable amount of time and detracts from the proper functions of the Council. We have responded to numerous requests from you, for detailed information relating to our service and the costs of the service. In view of this, please consider whether any future requests for information are absolutely necessary.

The information supplied to you is subject to copyright protection under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it (not including logos) for non-commercial purposes. You must re-use it accurately and not in a misleading context, and acknowledge us as your source. Re-use for commercial purposes may require a licence. Initial enquiries about re-using all or part of this information for commercial purposes should be directed to the Council’s Information Governance Team who can be contacted by email at [email address], or in writing to:

BCP Council
Legal and Democratic
Bourne Avenue
Bournemouth
BH2 6DY

Where third party copyright material has been provided, you must ensure you have gained the permission of the third party before reproducing the information. If you are unsure as to whether copyright applies, please contact the third party for clarification.

Following a reorganisation of local government in Dorset, this response is from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. Information provided will cover these 3 areas.

If you are dissatisfied with this response you can ask for an internal review. The purpose of an internal review is to assess how your Freedom of Information request was handled in the first instance and to determine whether the original response provided met with the requirements of the legislation. You can request an internal review by email to BCP Council Enquiries [email address]. You should make a review request within 40 working days of this response.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s review you have the right to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Contact details for the Information Commissioner can be found at: https://ico.org.uk/

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Apologies but I'm confused. You say; Further to your request for information received on 08/10/2020 please find below in your request the material that you asked for. I cannot find below the material I asked for. I am unsure what your most recent reply is about? Please advise.

Yours sincerely,
Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    FW Freedom of Information request Breakdown of staffing costs and calculations approved by the magistrates for council tax summonses liability orders..txt

    6K Download View as HTML

Dear Mr Bell,

Please see the email attached sent 23/10/2020 showing your original request at the bottom of the email and the answers underneath each question.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
Given that there has been clear overcharging in the matter in the issuing of summonses for council tax, would that now render all applications for a liability order for a sum certain void ab initio?
Woukd any recovery of monies against persons for an amount of money have been incorrect and illegal including additional fees added by enforcement agents?
Woukd enforcement agents in the recovery process who removed goods acted illegally?
Would enforcement agents who took monies in the recovery have done so illegally?

Yours sincerely,

Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

Freedom of Information Request
I am writing to acknowledge your request for information received by BCP Council on 13/11/2020.

We are dealing with your request and will be in contact with you again.

A response will be made within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you have asked for, or explaining why we cannot supply it. If we need any further clarification we will contact you.

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Bell,

I refer to your email of 13 November 2020 the contents of which have been noted.

Further to the information sent to you, the Partnership Manager for Stour Valley and Poole Partnership, who acts in the capacity of Head of Revenues and Benefits for BCP Council, has advised the following:

* That the calculations of costs charged for the issuing of Summonses and Liability Orders in relation to the collection of Council Tax have been duly agreed by the BCP Council Section 151 officers and have been duly acknowledged by the Magistrates Court.

* All processes undertaken by BCP Council and the preceding Councils in the collection and enforcement of debts due for Council Tax have been in accordance with Regulations.

* The Council consider all debts due for Council Tax should be paid and any Taxpayer not making payment will be subject to proceedings to recovery all monies due and all costs charged in accordance with regulations

* That any person wishing to challenge a Liability Order that has been issued should do so through the Magistrates Court.

Yours sincerely

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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Dear Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests,
It seems apparent that BCP and the previously Bournemouth Borough council can not give a further breakdown of these cost, as they have clearly been plucked out of thin air to highly inflate the councils costs for unlawful profit.
The MOJ confirmed that overcharging had taken place yet the council have never recovered a single penny. The overcharging would have been passed on and added to the overall amount in the application for a LO.
How can the council justify this flagrant oversight on their part?
Does the council accept no responsibility for their part in the continual overcharging in LO hearings?
Does the council accept that they have made an error in the overcharging and added inflated costs when applying for a LO?

Yours sincerely,
Warren Bell

Financial Services - SVPP FOI Requests, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Dear Mr Warren

With regard to your Freedom of Information request the Council consider it has detailed to you the information with regard to the charging of costs in respect of the collection of council tax.

We have provided a breakdown of the costs to you and they have been authorised by the respective parties.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed overcharging for their fees (not Local Authority fees) and you have been provided with the details of how to claim that back - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-cour....

It is the responsibility of the Court to refund those fees, not the Council. Councils were not aware the Ministry of Justice were overcharging, as we do not receive evidence of how their fees are calculated. All councils calculate their fees based upon resource allocations, fees vary based upon the investment required in each council to collect unpaid council tax by debtors.

Should you wish to further challenge the process of court fees you are advised to seek legal opinion. The Council consider it has now fully responded to your enquiry and would advise any further communication from you on the matter will be acknowledged and not responded to.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Clark
Level 5 Supervisor Development and Asset Management Team
SVPP Operations
T. 0345 034 4569
bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Warren Bell please sign in and let everyone know.