Council tax enforcement policies, protocol and proceedure

Danny Bamping made this Freedom of Information request to Plymouth City Council

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

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Plymouth City Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Plymouth City Council,

Please confirm the following in regards to Council tax enforcement.

The Liability orders for council tax debt are 'issued' - can you confirm if they are issued by Plymouth Magistrates Court or Plymouth City Council?

Can you confirm if the liability orders issued - exist as a 'physical piece of paper'?

If not - please confirm in what way and means they are 'issued'?

Can you confirm if the liability orders issued - are sent out to each alleged debtor?

Can you confirm that the issuing of the liability orders is a judicial or administration function?

Can you confirm that a 'justice of the peace' must sign each Liability order?

Can you confirm that under current legislation the Justice of the Peace must be identifiable when they sign?

Can you confirm that the identifiable, justice of the peace, who signs the liability orders actually work for the council or do they work for the court?

Can you confirm if Plymouth City Council has [or has had] a 'Court Officer' title or role?

If so can you confirm if this was a judicial appointment or a title given to an employee by Plymouth City Council?

The hearings for Liability orders in Magistrates courts are civil procedures; can you confirm that these hearings are heard and run under HMCTS / CPR rules and jurisdiction and that they apply in these hearings?

Can you confirm if the hearings for council tax liability orders are heard under the authority of the Queen's Privy Council or the Kings?

As council tax is a civil matter; which is enforced in a criminal venue [magistrates court] - can you confirm where exactly the 'conversion' occurs for non payment of council tax; enabling the Council [a corporation] to put a man [human being] in Jail for non payment of a civil alleged debt?

Please confirm if someone wanted to appeal against an issued Council Tax liability order; they would need to get the permission of the Council first before doing so?

Are the council or court obligated to anyone to notify them of the judicial route of appeal for a council tax liability order?

Can you confirm if there is a 'contract' for Council Tax?

Yours faithfully,

Danny Bamping

Info, Plymouth City Council

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FoI Corporate Services, Plymouth City Council

Dear Mr Bamping

My Ref:  866668

 

Thank you for your request for information about Council Tax Liability
Orders.  Your request was received on 15 September 2014 and is being dealt
with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

The Council will seek to provide the information you have requested within
20 working days, that is by 13 October 2014 and it will be provided by
email or hard copy, depending how you made your request and how the
information is held. 

 

Information is usually provided free of charge but in some circumstances a
fee may be payable and if that is the case I will inform you.  A fees
notice will be issued to you and you will be required to pay this before
we proceed with your request.

 

Information about the Freedom of Information Act 2000 can be found on the
Information Commissioners Office website: [1]http://www.ico.gov.uk.
Plymouth City Council also has information available on our website:
[2]http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/homepage/coun....
If you cannot find the information you require please contact me using
the contact details below.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Kelly Forsyth
Customer Adviser
Customer Services
Plymouth City Council
Civic Centre
Plymouth
PL1 2AA

 

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Jennings, Nancy, Plymouth City Council

Dear Mr Bamping,

 

Your request below has been referred to me for my response.

 

The response to all of the questions that you have posed is that the
Council holds no recorded information in connection with those questions,
with the exception of the correspondence it has exchanged with yourself
when these, or some of these questions, were previously raised by you. 
Should you require further copies of this correspondence then please
advise me accordingly.

 

In any event, it would appear that some of the questions you have posed
are questions of law and it thus appropriate that your own legal advice
should be sought.  

 

Regards,

 

Nancy Jennings
Senior Lawyer
Legal Services
Plymouth City Council
Civic Centre
Plymouth
PL1 2AA
DX 8278 Plymouth

T +441752306059
F +441752306083
E [1][email address]

[2]www.plymouth.gov.uk

 

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Dear Nancy,

Thank you so much for your reply to me - its lovely to hear from you, and I hope this finds you well.

Probably the best way to proceed with this FOI is for us to look at what you have claimed in your response.

Firstly, you state that the Council holds no recorded information in connection with those questions?

Perhaps you could elude to which ones it doesn't hold information on? that would at least help us establish which questions can't be answered by the council via FOI.

However, in the same sentence - you also claim that;

"with the exception of the correspondence it has exchanged with yourself when these, or some of these questions, were previously raised by you. Should you require further copies of this correspondence then please advise me accordingly."

Certainly I will take you up on your offer of requiring further copies of this correspondence which shows that the council have already answered 'some' of the questions I posed via this FOI. So please consider yourself advised, accordingly.

If you want to post them in response on here - that is fine with me. If you would like to send hard copies of those responses to me, you already have my postal address for my residency.

Perhaps, I can assist us all by going through the questions I have posed via this FOI; and replying to 'why' the question has been asked, what the council has previously said [if it has addressed that question before]; and in some what I believe the answer to be - or why its not been answered.

1 - The Liability orders for council tax debt are 'issued' - can you confirm if they are issued by Plymouth Magistrates Court or Plymouth City Council?

A - This is common knowledge now that the councils send out and issue the summons; this has been confirmed by the MOJ, HMCTS and indeed several councils [and magistrates courts] already around the country.

Can you confirm if the liability orders issued - exist as a
'physical piece of paper'?

A - Well when I previously asked in writing to the council shortly after a LO hearing where the magistrates left the court room after I challenged their jurisdiction; the council replied to me in letter form stating that the Liability Orders did nt exist as a physical piece of paper.

Yet, when I pursued this question several times - it took almost a year and a SADR to get copies of what proport to be Liability Orders - but really are nothing of the sort. - hence the confusion.

A - If not - please confirm in what way and means they are 'issued'?

I have never asked this question before.

Q - Can you confirm if the liability orders issued - are sent out to each alleged debtor?

A - I have never asked this question before, but I know the answer is NO.

Q - Can you confirm that the issuing of the liability orders is a
judicial or administration function?

I have never asked this question before.

My FOI to the MoJ and HMCTS - suggests that it is purely administrative as the council does not have the authority, power or jurisdiction to issue 'court orders'.

Q - Can you confirm that a 'justice of the peace' must sign each Liability order?

A - I do not believe that I have asked this question in writing before.

I believe that the legislation suggests that each one must be?

Q - Can you confirm that under current legislation the Justice of the Peace must be identifiable when they sign?

A - I have not asked this question before.

I believe that the legislation says that they must be.

Q - Can you confirm that the identifiable, justice of the peace, who signs the liability orders actually work for the council or do they work for the court?

A - I have never asked this question before.

I believe the council MUST have JoP working for them and I'd like to know how many and how they have the authority to do what they do whilst working for the council.

Q - Can you confirm if Plymouth City Council has [or has had] a 'Court Officer' title or role?

A - I have not asked this question before; apart from in an email to Plymouth City Councils 'Court Officer'?

Q - If so can you confirm if this was a judicial appointment or a title given to an employee by Plymouth City Council?

A - I have not asked this question before, because I did not get a reply to my email.

Q - The hearings for Liability orders in Magistrates courts are civil procedures; can you confirm that these hearings are heard and run under HMCTS / CPR rules and jurisdiction and that they apply in these hearings?

A - I have not asked this question to the council before; the response I had from the MoJ and HMCTS privately, was very interesting.

I don't believe that these hearings are held under CPR rules - the Council should know and should explain which rules and jurisdiction it holds the hearings under.

Q - Can you confirm if the hearings for council tax liability orders are heard under the authority of the Queen's Privy Council or the Kings?

A - I have never asked this question before.

Q - As council tax is a civil matter; which is enforced in a criminal venue [magistrates court] - can you confirm where exactly the'conversion' occurs for non payment of council tax; enabling the Council [a corporation] to put a man [human being] in Jail for non payment of a civil alleged debt?

A - I have never asked this question before and it is not explained in the Councils newly published and 23 years to late - Council Tax Enforcement Policy.

Q - Please confirm if someone wanted to appeal against an issued Council Tax liability order; they would need to get the permission of the Council first before doing so?

A - I have never asked this question before.

I believe the answer is yes.

Q - Are the council or court obligated to anyone to notify them of the judicial route of appeal for a council tax liability order?

A - I have asked this question via email before to the council before and received a response saying that neither the court nor the council are obliged to do so. Perhaps you could confirm?

Q - Can you confirm if there is a 'contract' for Council Tax?

A - I have asked this question before - and the answer is NO.

Furthermore [and finally] you also stated;

"In any event, it would appear that some of the questions you have posed are questions of law and it thus appropriate that your own legal advice should be sought."

Well, I dont believe that the questions above - apart from 1 or possibly 2 are questions of law - they are more questions of procedure and legal processes which the council must follow and adhere to.

In any event...you are the councils senior lawyer; so if they are questions of law - then you are the best placed person in the council to answer those questions - so please do so, as to the best of your knowledge and ability. [you may have to google - Kings Privy council - and when you do - try 'court of quarter session' and do check out the Senior Courts Act 1971; section 1 part 3; it all makes very interesting reading.]

I am still a student of law; and at this point do not require a 'solicited regulated person' or a member of the 'law society' to advise or assist me at this stage.

I look forward to hearing from you and my very best warm regards to you.

Yours sincerely,

Danny Bamping

Jennings, Nancy, Plymouth City Council

Dear Mr Bamping,

Thank you for your email.

With respect, the purpose of a freedom of information request is for an individual to be able to obtain information that is held by a public body. It is not intended to be a general "fishing" exercise or the posing of questions you require to be answered.

A request is made in respect of the "recorded information" the public body made hold. Recorded information under the Act includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.

It is thus not for the Council, under the guise of a FOI request, to provide responses to a series of questions that you have posed.

The recorded information that the Council holds in respect of the questions is only where those issues may have been contained within correspondence it has exchanged with you. It is this correspondence that I shall arrange to provide you with further copies of. I shall provide these within the next 21 days.

With regard to the provision of legal advice, my role, of course, is to provide advice to the Council, and not to members of the public.

Regards,

Nancy Jennings
Senior Lawyer
Legal Services
Plymouth City Council
Civic Centre
Plymouth
PL1 2AA
DX 8278 Plymouth

T +441752306059
F +441752306083
E [email address]
www.plymouth.gov.uk

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Dear Nancy,

Thanks for your email response, much appreciated.
With respect, I am making this freedom information request in order to clarify certain procedures which the council is required by legislation [statute] to do.

This requires the council to ensure it follows the correct due processes in enforcing Council Tax; likewise certain documents are required to be issued in a prescribed legal form. I am an individual and I should be able to obtain this information held by a public body.

If I wanted to go on a fishing exercise, I would take my rod and bait elsewhere – like the sea which isn’t too far – I am likely to fair better there; than catch anything other than a ‘cold’ [shoulder] here.

I have requested answers on the above questions because;

1 – I have never asked them before; and they are in the public interest and you have a duty to respond.

2 – I have asked them before [privately] to the council – and either received no response or an inaccurate [mis-leading] one. These are also questions which you have the answers to and have a duty to answer.

3 – The pubic [like myself] have every right to have answers to these questions – yet you on behalf of the council are denying them[and me] those answers; and you’re reasons NOT to disclose this information are a clear indication of the fact the council [and yourself] do not want to disclose the answers to the public.

In regards to re-sending me the information and correspondence between myself and the council – that’s excellent news. Can you please ensure you include the written letter the council sent to me that stated that the Council Tax Liability orders ‘did not exist as a physical piece of paper’; The court bundle which the council put together a copy of that would be excellent as well – I believe that contains some 4 [four] bits of paper that ‘didn't previously exist’.

Furthermore;
It is my understanding that I am a member of the Public; and that you are a Public civil servant.

Therefore I request of you to answer these questions as to the best of your ability; remembering whilst doing so, the seven principles of public life; which you must adhere to and follow.

Selflessness
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

These principles apply to all aspects of public life.

Having contacted the good people that run this website; they have informed me that just because I may have asked the question privately to the council; does not therefore justify excluding it being answered.

Furthermore, it is for the council to respond to these questions and it cannot deliberately declined to respond to them purely on the basis that it is because I am asking.

Finally, as you are best placed to answer some of these questions – as they relate to certain ‘legal’ and ‘lawful’ issues in terms of jurisdiction and form; I would say that your duty to answer them as a civil servant; far out ways your legal advice to the council itself – which is clearly not to.
I do require legal advice. I have been to solicitors, barristers and even retired high court judges – none of them have a clue about ‘Council Tax’ enforcement in magistrates courts or liability orders - funny that?

The MoJ & HMCTS have both already confirmed they have ‘nothing to do with council tax liability orders, the hearings, the jurisdiction of them, the summons, nothing…no record is with them in regards to these matters’ – ask the council.
So here I am; asking the Council…and they [you] are declining the answer?

You may have noticed that I'm not going to go away – the public [and myself] have every right to know; and you are obliged to disclose.

I look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Danny Bamping

Jennings, Nancy, Plymouth City Council

I am currently away from the office until 14 October and will not pick up
any emails sent.  For any urgent telephone advice please contact a member
of the Litigation team:  Helen Morris on 306086, Pam Taylor on 306087 or
Kelly Thomson on 306037. Thanks

 

      

Paul left an annotation ()

The 14th was over two and a half weeks ago. Has the woman been in touch privately at all regarding her obligation as a public trustee and civil servant Danny?

Calderdale Against Corruption left an annotation ()

This really needs responding to and I suggest it is Misconduct in Public Office to withhold information which could substantiate allegations of fraud, especially if one is complicit in that fraud.

Do the right thing Nancy and you may avoid prison because let me assure you that the great Council Tax fraud is well and truly up, and we will commandeer the information, if necessary.

R. Thomson left an annotation ()

The world is watching, 21341 watchers via Facebook. Clearly information in the form of procedure rules, job description, templates and systems must exist.
Answer the questions to the public that pay your wages or resign and allow someone who is not going to try and wriggle out of answering take your job.
You have already breached the questioners data protection by revealing details of private correspondence online.

Ms Molly left an annotation ()

What is the current status of this request as far as the Council is concerned? Are they going to respond?

J. Clarke left an annotation ()

I do not think they can respond as it appears Danny has backed them into a corner.
The castle walls are beginning to crumble.

Parker left an annotation ()

Hey guys, did you ever get a response?

I askedm my local authority basically the same questions, they responded
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Jay Taylor left an annotation ()

What, still no response? Afraid to provide information which would certainly lead to the setting of precedent in court, which the public at large could then use to free themselves from the illusion of the obligation to pay Council Tax or face imprisonment? Tut, tut, Plymouth Council... "Why are we waiting...?"

Nicky left an annotation ()

As a public trust.... I am alarmed and shocked that to this date.... They have still not answered your reasonable questions and in my opinion this comes across as being fishy as in 'fishing for answer's.. It is yours and ours right to receive these answers......

Plymouth council.... Why don't you do the right thing and just answer Dannys questions?