Council Tax Summons Cost Calculation - Unlawful standard sum

Ron (Account suspended) 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.

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

Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

I have taken a look at Haringey Borough council's 2010/11 council tax court summons costs calculation which I believe still apply and arrived at the conclusion that it does not (or appears not to) comply with the restrictions laid down in the relevant Statutory Instrument (SI 1992/613). By applying a standard level of costs in all cases it seems obvious that a significant number of taxpayers are being charged approximately 20 times the amount that Haringey Borough council has incurred in respect of instituting the summons (£125.00), see document below.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

The amount claimed by way of costs in any individual case must be no more than that reasonably incurred by the billing authority ( https://www.scribd.com/doc/283416919/Def... para 51). Therefore, if Haringey Borough council wanted to take advantage of
streamlining the administration process by applying a standard sum in all cases ( https://www.scribd.com/doc/283416919/Def... paras 47–51), in order for it to be done lawfully, it would need to forfeit each element of expenditure it incurs that is not common to every application (the majority of costs which are accounted for in its breakdown).

In other words, a standard sum could not exceed that incurred by the authority in a case where the least expenditure is attributed, which would in practice relate to a taxpayer settling his outstanding debt on receipt of a summons without contacting the council on any issue. Deriving a figure therefore from the ‘Gross Recoverable costs’ which is split between an estimated number of summons, can not be lawful; even less so if the number of summons is reduced to factor in an estimate for those withdrawn, waived and those in respect of unrecoverable costs. The least cost case is the only basis on which to determine a standard sum if the aim is to eliminate the administrative burden of calculating the costs in each case, whilst at the same time complying with the regulations which require that the costs be no more than that incurred by the authority in any individual case.

If the Regulations were applied lawfully, the consequences would be that the majority of the 75% element of the total cost of Council Tax collection attributable to the standard summons costs (£2,876,600), would not be permissible in respect of re-charging expenditure for instituting the complaint. What is set-out above should be enough to satisfy the Magistrates' court that Haringey Borough council's claims are not reasonable in the context of the relevant law and should (as is legally required) question the council's claim with a view to lowering the costs accordingly.

Q. If Haringey Borough council claim that my assertions are wrong, which is more likely than not, I request Haringey Borough council disclose the evidence it holds which will support that inflating the summons costs for a significant number of defendants in order to apply a standard charge, is a lawful approach.

Yours faithfully,

Ron

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Ron ,

 

Thank you for your correspondence which has been forwarded to this team as
a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

To satisfy section 8(1)(b) of the Act we require your full name to
validate your request.   Please see the Information Commissioner’s website
for further information about how to make a valid request:
[1]http://www.ico.org.uk/for_the_public/off...

 

Although you have indicated that you wish to make a request for
information, further to your 'right to know' contained in section 1 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your email contains an enquiry
rather than a specific request for recorded information held by Haringey
Council.

 

Guidance given by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) states that
requests which are not for recorded information, but instead ask
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your decision to do y" are not requests for recorded information and
therefore should be treated as routine correspondence."

 

The ICO has produced guidance for people who wish to make a request for
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Our web site contains detailed information about Haringey Council’s
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Please note, no further action will be taken until we hear back from you.

 

Regards,

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance Officer

 

Haringey Council

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

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[3][email address]

 

[4]www.haringey.gov.uk

[5]twitter@haringeycouncil

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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear FOI,

I don't have any objection to providing my name, however, Haringey Borough Council should really get with it and think about the nature of Freedom of Information requests which are applicant blind.

Moreover, I am asking for recorded information. I hope the rephrasing helps:

Q. I request Haringey Borough council disclose the evidence it holds [in the form of information recorded in any form] which will support that inflating the summons costs for a significant number of defendants in order to apply a standard charge, is a lawful approach.

Yours sincerely,

Ron Aka N Gilliatt

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Gilliatt

 

Freedom of Information Request: Reference LBH/4868315

 

I acknowledge your request for information received on 03 December 2015.

 

This information request will be dealt with in accordance with the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 and we will send the response by 05 January 2016.

 

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

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance 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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Bradburn Mick, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Gilliatt,

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request ref: LBH/4868315

 

Thank you for your request for information received on 07 December 2015,
in which you asked for the following information:

 

Q. I request Haringey Borough council disclose the evidence it

     holds [in the form of information recorded in any form] which will

     support that inflating the summons costs for a significant number

     of defendants in order to apply a standard charge, is a lawful

     approach

 

 

My response is as follows:

 

I am unable to provide any information as we do not inflate Summons costs
in order to apply a standard charge. We do apply standard charge for the
issue of a summons, and obtaining a Liability Order, and these are based,
as per regulations, on the reasonable costs incurred.

 

 

If you have any further queries, or are unhappy with how we have dealt
with your request and wish to make a complaint, please contact the
Feedback and Information Team as below. (Please note you should do this
within two months of receiving this response.)   

 

Feedback and Information Governance Team

River Park House

225 High Road

N22 8HQ

T 020 8489 1988

E [1][email address]

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Mick Bradburn

Arrears Project Manager

Shared Service Centre - Revenues

 

Haringey Council

P.O Box 10505, Wood Green, London N22 7WJ

 

 

T:020 8489 2853

[2][email address]

 

[3]www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Mr Bradburn,

Thank you for your response in which you stated as follows:

"....we do not inflate Summons costs in order to apply a standard charge. We do apply standard charge for the issue of a summons, and obtaining a Liability Order, and these are based, as per regulations, on the reasonable costs incurred.

Haringey Borough Council does inflate summons costs as suggested (for a percentage of taxpayers) in order to apply a standard sum. This was set out in some detail in my request.

I would therefore like it clarifying why it is that the council is of the opinion that its standard charge, and how it is applied, complies with the regulations (regs 34 and 35 of SI 1992/613).

Yours sincerely,

Ron

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Gilliatt,

 

Thank you for your email dated 5 January 2016. I note your comments.

 

The Freedom of Information Act gives people the right to access
information that is held on record by public authorities. If we have
records containing the information that you are seeking, we must provide a
copy of those records to you (unless one of the exemptions within the Act
applies). If we do not have the information on record, there is no
obligation to provide it to you. We are not obliged to create records
simply because an FOI request has been received. The Act does not give
people a right to be given answers to questions that they would like to
put to a local authority. Nor does that Act require us to explain or
clarify our ’opinions’.

 

If you wish to make a further FOI request for information that is held-
please do so explaining clearly what information you are requesting.

 

Regards,

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance 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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Michelle vonAhn left an annotation ()

If the Council are doing something illegal, may I suggest that a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman may be a more effective approach than correspondence with the Council itself?

Ron (Account suspended)

Dear FOI,

Haringey Borough Council is obliged to provide information to the Magistrates' court in sufficient detail for it to make a proper judicial decision that the authority has in fact incurred the expenditure it is recharging to Haringey residents. Moreover, the expenditure it does recharge must be in accordance with the relevant legislation and case law.

On that basis Haringey Borough Council must on the balance of probabilities hold the information I'm requesting.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Ron,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

It is not clear what information exactly you are asking for. Please
confirm you are asking for a breakdown of charges which is signed off by
the Magistrates' court?.

 

Please confirm so we can get your enquiry actioned.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Simon Dingomal 

Feedback Review Officer

 

Haringey Council 

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

 

020 8489 1988

[email address]

 

www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear FOI,

Re, "Please confirm you are asking for a breakdown of charges which is signed off by the Magistrates' court?."

That is not strictly what I'm asking for, but if such a breakdown exists and it is in sufficient detail to be meaningful, it would be appreciated if it could be disclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Gilliatt

 

Freedom of Information Request: Reference LBH/5098016

 

I acknowledge your request for information received on 04 March 2016.

 

This information request will be dealt with in accordance with the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 and we will send the response by 05 April 2016.

 

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

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance 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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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Pietikainen Sirkku,

I understand this information will be accessible on Haringey Borough Council's website. If that is the case I would appreciate a link to its location providing; if not the fact that the breakdown exists would suggest it could be immediately disclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Adamna left an annotation ()

I wonder if they are stalling until the new council tax year is upon us, and new summons costs. You asked about the existing ones.

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Both these calculations are for 2010/11 so take your pick.

This one indicates that 76% of the entire council tax budget is attributable to the cost of issuing summonses: http://tinyurl.com/zt42xqu , and this one recharges 88% of the budget to summons recipients: http://tinyurl.com/gwzuj4m

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Gilliatt,

 

Thank you for your email below.

 

We will respond to your information request as soon as possible and no
later than 5 April 2016.

    

      

Regards,

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance 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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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Pietikainen Sirkku,

Thanks.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Kent Helen, Haringey Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Gilliatt,

 

Please find attached response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Mrs Helen Kent

Service Manager

Shared Service Centre -Revenues

Haringey Council

Alexandra House,10 station Road, London, N22 7TR

 

T.0208 489 3535

[1][email address]

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Ms Kent,

Thank you for disclosing the breakdown.

Is it possible to also provide the explanatory memorandum, which I assume there must be, that would aid the person scrutinising the figures to determine whether or not they were realistic and referable to the relevant regulations which restrict them?

It is unlikely that a Magistrate could be convinced that the expenditure attributable to the costs would amount to 65% of the total Cost of collecting Council Tax, but absolutely staggering to think that the council's auditor and High Court judge would be taken in by such a claim.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Kent Helen, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Ron,

Unfortunately there is no explanatory memorandum to provide. Discussions are held in person whether in court or with our auditors who have been satisfied with the explanations.

Mrs Helen Kent
Head of Revenues
Shared Service Centre -Revenues
Haringey Council
Alexandra House,10 station Road, London, N22 7TR

[email address]
www.haringey.gov.uk
twitter@haringeycouncil
facebook.com/haringeycouncil

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Dear Ms Kent,

Thank you for disclosing the breakdown.

Is it possible to also provide the explanatory memorandum, which I assume there must be, that would aid the person scrutinising the figures to determine whether or not they were realistic and referable to the relevant regulations which restrict them?

It is unlikely that a Magistrate could be convinced that the expenditure attributable to the costs would amount to 65% of the total Cost of collecting Council Tax, but absolutely staggering to think that the council's auditor and High Court judge would be taken in by such a claim.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

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Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Kent Helen,

If a matter so serious as this can not be open to public scrutiny it is only reasonable that there will be some people who are going to suspect that our judges and auditors are motivated financially to act dishonestly.

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Ron (Account suspended)

Dear Kent Helen,

Re, 8 April 2016 correspondence:

"Unfortunately there is no explanatory memorandum to provide. Discussions are held in person whether in court or with our auditors who have been satisfied with the explanations."

The evidence of Miss Grealish, the Council's head of services for revenues, referred to in paragraph 39 in the link below appears to be a relevant explanation.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi...

Yours sincerely,

Ron

Kent Helen, Haringey Borough Council

I am out of the office until Monday 4th July 2016.   If your email is
urgent please contact Council Tax on ext 3674 otherwise I will respond on
my return.

 

 

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