Council Tax court costs – Original spread sheet

Michelle vonAhn made this Freedom of Information request to Haringey Borough Council

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

The request was refused by Haringey Borough Council.

Michelle vonAhn

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Please provide the original spread sheet calculation supplied by Haringey Council to the Magistrates' Court in respect of Council Tax court costs, seeking approval to increase them from £95.00 to £125.00 (4 March 2010).

– or –

if only a summary was sent, the original spread sheet calculation from which the summary was produced.

In order to identify the spread sheet, the file was used as a template (see below) by Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

Yours faithfully,

Michelle vonAhn

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Ms vonAhn

 

Freedom of Information / Environmental Information Regulations Request:
Reference LBH/4089415

 

I acknowledge your request for information received on 04 March 2015.

This information request will be dealt with in accordance with the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 / Environmental Information Regulations and we
will send the response by 01 April 2015.

 

If you have any questions, please contact us on 020 8489 1988 or
[email address].

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Sue Dyos

Feedback Team Leader

 

Haringey Council

River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

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FOI, Haringey Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Ms vonAhn,

 

Please see attached response to your request.

 

regards

 

Sue Dyos

Feedback Team Leader

 

Haringey Council

River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

 

______________________________________________________________________
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Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Haringey Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Council Tax court costs – Original spread sheet'.

Considering that you have had correspondence with others who have been concerned about this issue dating back to AUGUST 2013, and this is the first time you have stated that you do not have the information, I would like the review to focus upon when the officer involved in producing the spreadsheet left service, so that this can be reflected on the intransigence of Haringey in responding appropriately to the requests it has received from both Arnold Layne and from Rebecca Saunders.

Secondly, please inform me of when the relevant file was deleted, and what policies you have in place about the deletion of such information underpinning Council decisions. Please inform me of what the Council policies are regarding email deletion and retention, as I believe that there should be policies that would seek to prevent the deletion of emails that may be subject to FOI requests. You have the ability to search for both the SENT email, and that which another recipient RECEIVED. Please confirm that both these searches have been performed.

Finally, please explain why Haringey does not have continued access to the actual Excel spreadsheet on its servers, in existence in its own right rather than as only an attachment to an email. I would like a competent IT person to search for the file in both the current server configuration and in any backups that may be available.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Michelle vonAhn

Arnold Layne (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

There needs to be an investigation into who is behind this. Whoever it is, they must be confident that they'll be protected.

There was apparently a report about the way FOI requests are treat as a joke by government departments on Newsnight recently.

An article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31...

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Ms VonAhn,

 

Internal Review regarding Freedom of Information request reference
LBH/4089415

 

Thank you for email received on 23 March 2015.

 

Your request for an Internal Review has been logged with the reference
LBH/4144815. Please quote this reference number on any further
correspondence.

 

We will now review the response you have been sent to the above request
and I aim to let you know the outcome of our investigation by 22 April
2015. If I need longer, I will write to let you know the reason and when
you can expect a full reply.

 

If you have any questions, please let me know. 

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Feedback Review Officer

 

Haringey Council

River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[1][email address]

 

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

[3]twitter@haringeycouncil

[4]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

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Alan Stanton left an annotation ()

So the London Borough of Haringey is unable to provide a copy of a document sent to a Magistrates Court bench as part of legal proceedings concerning its own Council Tax payers. Why? Because the member of staff who sent it "has now left".
   I was a Haringey councillor for sixteen years - until May 2014. Over the years I developed a great respect for many senior staff - including some staff in the Finance and Legal Services who I dealt with and got to know. So my initial expectation was that Haringey would be open and transparent in supplying this information. It is clearly a matter of serious and legitimate public concern. Not least because added court costs mean that the poorest and most vulnerable residents may be pushed further into debt.
   Frankly, I'm ashamed that the Council which I served on for four terms would now offer this "explanation" for not being able to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
   I would very much like to know the view of the Information Commissioner about Haringey - or indeed any Local Authority - taking such a position in respect of documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Let alone documents formally supplied to a Court as part of legal proceedings. If accepted as a legitimate explanation, it would offer local councils a way of evading their basic responsibility under the Act.

Many decades ago I was a solicitor. We were required to keep complete and comprehensive correspondence and document files. There were strict rules about how many years files had to be retained. (The idea that they should be destroyed when a staff member left the firm would have been laughable.) With just as strict rules about the accounts we needed to keep on the firm's money and - crucially our clients' accounts.
   I had imagined that local authority accountants and lawyers were required to follow similar rules.

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Ms vonAhn,

 

Please see attached our response to your FOI complaint/Internal Review.

 

Yours sincerely

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Feedback Review Officer

 

Haringey Council

River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[1][email address]

 

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

[3]twitter@haringeycouncil

[4]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

______________________________________________________________________
Are you registered to vote?
Don’t get turned away at the ballot box
Register your details at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote by 20 April 2015 to
vote in the 2015 parliamentary general election.
#yourvotematters

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______________________________________________________________________

References

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Cherie Jerez left an annotation ()

I have read all of Haringey's responses and conclude that the matter is far, far more serious than just a breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

I recommend that anyone who considers that they have been affected by Haringey Borough Council's fraudulent use of the Magistrates Court in Council Tax Liability Order applications to submit a complaint via Action Fraud.

A link to the website is below:

http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_...

Dear Pietikainen Sirkku,

I have referred the matter to the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

Michelle vonAhn

Michelle vonAhn left an annotation ()

This matter has been referred to the ICO. I was informed on 14 May that it had been accepted as casework and is awaiting allocation, when I will be contacted by the case officer.

Cherie Jerez left an annotation ()

Thank you for the update.

I belive tomorrow the Reverend will be taking these issues up with the independent auditor.

http://www.haringeyindependent.co.uk/new...

Clive Carter left an annotation ()

On Monday 8 June 2015, Haringey Council is scheduled to convene a Cabinet Member signing in connection with a large contract to Microsoft. Details here:

http://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/ieLis...

This (site-wide?) Licence presumably covers the servers and the back-up capabilities of the IT infrastructure.

It is difficult to understand how a staff member leaving could cause any and all correspondence to vanish. It is unclear as to whether the spreadsheet was lost or deleted, either accidentally or deliberately.

If the explanation offered is to be believed, then one has to wonder if there is any information that could not be lost, simply because an employee leaves.

Clive Carter (Cllr.)

Enid Brighton (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

It would have to be a coincidence that Great Yarmouth Borough Council which evidently acquired the elusive spread sheet – for use as a template to produce its own breakdown (see above) – also deleted the original.

Its response to the request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

The screen shots of the properties of the Great Yarmouth spread sheet do not leave much room for doubt that the file has been passed around at least to one other local authority and in reality is likely to have been duplicated a number of times and exist on more than one computer/file server.

http://i1205.photobucket.com/albums/bb43...

http://i1205.photobucket.com/albums/bb43...

Tom Bola left an annotation ()

Does this shed any light on the situation:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

It is a spreadsheet, but is a very watered down version of what is likely to be the original and formed the template which was used by Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

The spreadsheet was disclosed in the FoI request linked to below:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Michelle vonAhn left an annotation ()

That file is exactly what Haringey have offered to me as a .pdf in response to my complaint to the ICO. It provides very little information about how they came to determine the costs, because even I can figure out that they have divided the total enforcement costs (£2,876600) by the 23,000 summons issued to arrive at a summons cot of £125.06.

But really, what are these "Direct costs" and "Indirect costs", and what are the "Overheads" that pertain specifically to enforcement? Do they really have nearly as many staff involved in enforcement of Council Tax as they do in collecting it?

As a consequence of all the furore about Haringey's less than open approach to this, a slight shift has been achieved. The ICO reported "The council suggests that as the calculations are revised each year there is no necessity to keep older calculations and this has certainly been the case in the past. However, since a legal challenge in 2013/14 a shared electronic file named 'court costs' has been set up and the calculations for 2013/14 and subsequent years are and will be filed there."

My ICO complaint has resulted in Haringey claiming that they have thoroughly searched, and cannot find the spreadsheet. If anyone has any evidence that this is not the case, I would be grateful for further information to raise with the ICO. Please email me if you have any further evidence to raise with the ICO.