Adele Butterworth

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

Please could you supply me with information regarding your means of debt recovery.

Please supply List of Bailiff/Recovery Companies actively working for NELC.

I would like copies of each companys signed Contract and Bailiff Agreement with NELC.

I would also like to see names and certificate numbers, including County Court Registrations, of all individuals who were and still are enforcing warrants on your approval.

Are fees or payments made to or from the bailiffs to the council, to obtain an Enforcement Warrant?

Does the Council perform any checks to ensure that the Bailiffs sent in their name are behaving according to law?

Does the council sanction any bailiff found not to be operating according to the signed Bailiff Agreement between NELC and the Bailiff?

What kind of Sanction is used?

Is this Sanction then publicly available?

What forms of identification are mandatory for a Bailiff acting on the instructions of NELC, when attempting to remove goods?

Does the Council check that Bailiffs operating on their behalf perform correctly when dealing with vulnerable people, such as the elderly, unemployed , unable to pay, or people who are ill?

Does the council permit the sub-contracting,i.e passing on of Warrants, from one company to another?

Where this has occurred, are all Bailiffs concerned still scrutinised by NELC for identifications and Certificates?

What is the average total sum personally earned by a Bailiff working for NELC?

Yours faithfully,

Adele Butterworth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for information, which has been
allocated the reference number 6688_1314.

 

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

 

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

 

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

show quoted sections

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Butterworth

 

Thank you for your information request, reference number 6688_1314.

 

Your response has been inserted into the attached word document.

 

If you are unhappy with the response you have received, you have the right
to request an internal review by the Council. If following this you are
still dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information
Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me
and I will make the necessary arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

 

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Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I notice for some reason the council has refused to release information in relation to its bailiff tendering process on the grounds that it is commercially sensitive. I would therefore (even though you have not requested it) question this, for the following reasons:

Eric Pickle's Guidance to local councils (Department of Communities and Local Government) states, in relation to good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears, the following at paragraph 4.6:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy...

"4.6 Local Authorities should be aware of and discuss fees with their bailiffs. Fees and charges should be in line with those set out in regulations. Local Authorities will want to be satisfied that fees are reasonable where regulations do not specify specific charges. Local Authorities should ensure that fees are transparent to the public and open to scrutiny, for example by publishing their standard scale of fees on their website."

In accordance with the law, only ‘reasonable costs incurred’ can be charged and therefore no allowance for profit. It follows that there are no issues surrounding commercial sensitivity.

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

I would like to query why the council has refused to release information of its bailiff tendering process on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. This was not detailed in my request for information, however, now it has been brought up I would like details supplying and will provide the reasons why the information cannot be deemed commercially sensitive.

The schedule of fees and charges connected with distress (schedule 5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, stipulate the amount of fees which may be imposed for each measure taken to enforce the amount owing to the council. The amount cannot deviate where the charges are prescribed, and for those measures where they are not prescribed, the fees and charges for the respective actions are described as fees and charges reasonably incurred.

Therefore, the law in effect dictates that there are no factors to consider surrounding commercial sensitivity in the tendering process and whichever bailiff firm is contracted to carry out enforcement for North East Lincolnshire Council would equally have its profits dictated by the standard charging structure under schedule 5.

It would also be unlawful for the bailiff firm to pay from fees (under schedule 5) a commission to the authority to obtain a commercial advantage. It would also be unlawful if it were to carry out other work on the council's behalf "for free" (administration for example) which is additional to that described under the fees and charges connected with distress (schedule 5).

I understand that the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government has issued guidance to all local authorities (Good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears) and states that "Local Authorities should ensure that fees are transparent to the public and open to scrutiny, for example by publishing their standard scale of fees on their website."

In the link to the web page "Bailiffs - collecting Council Tax and Business Rate debts", the list does not appear exhaustive of the fees which may be charged to a debtor. Are these the only charges which NELC allows its bailiff firm to impose? There is no redemption charge for example which I believe a bailiff may charge a minimum of £24.50 (to return goods) where a debtor pays all debt owed before items which have been removed are sold.

There is only one Service Level Agreement, that between the council and Rossendales. Are there no such agreements in respect of Newlyn Plc and Jacobs Certificated Bailiffs?

Finally to clarify:

"Please clarify what you mean by enforcement warrant?"

A warrant permitting the bailiff to force entry into a debtor's home.

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

"...It would also be unlawful if it were to carry out other work on the council's behalf "for free" (administration for example) which is additional..."

Everything NELC expects Rossendales to deliver is detailed in the Service Level Agreement. That includes what is over and above work they can claim payment for through statutory fees. Though it's not stated that commission is paid to NELC, the extras they are contracted to deliver for free (much the same) is likely to be why NELinc's residents are being fleeced by Rossendales, i.e., to make up for doing free work for the council.

For example, at paragraph 3.39 of the SLA, conditions are laid down with regards the contractor taking on council administration work, i.e. making payment arrangements with debtors. Similarly at paragraph 3.45 it is clear they are involved in setting up and administering attachments of earnings, and at 3.49 deal with complaints which require responding to in writing. Paragraph 3.53 states that the firm must supply case reports on any number of debts requested.

The regulations (where not prescribed) only provide for "Reasonable costs and fees incurred". Because legislation was passed in parliament to apply to in-house enforcement, profit is not allowed for nor is covering overheads of a private firm.

The fees currently charged by private bailiffs must already be considered unreasonable because profits are being made. But if the bailiff firm is able to absorb extra work, the charges cannot by definition be considered "Reasonable costs and fees incurred". It must mean householders are being charged more than regulations allow, supporting that the law is being broken.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for an Internal Review of your Freedom of Information Request, NEL/6688/1314

Your request for an Internal Review has been passed to the relevant department for processing and you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of Information requests is available on our website at: http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or assistance quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer
Resources Directorate

show quoted sections

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Adele Butterworth

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information request 6688_1314,
concerning bailiffs and their activities.

I have reviewed the response provided to you and the handling of your
request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and find:

1.    That your request was responded to within the statutory time of 20
working days;

 

2.    That you were informed whether or not the information you asked for
was held by North East Lincolnshire Council;

 

3.    That you were provided with the information you asked for available
under the Freedom of Information Act;

 

4.    That you were provided with the reasons why any information you had
asked for could not be supplied to you under the Freedom of Information
Act and

 

5.     That your response provided you with your rights of appeal. 

I am therefore satisfied that the Council has acted in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act in the handling of your request.

I have reviewed the exemption applied to the Bailiff tendering criteria
and I’m satisfied that it had been applied correctly and that the process
of Bailiff tendering is commercially sensitive.

Thank you for your interpretation of Schedule 5 of the Council Tax
(Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. I have noted your
comments.

I can confirm the charges and fees listed on our website are not
exhaustive but these are available in the public domain under Schedule 5
of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.

Thank you for clarifying the term enforcement warrant .Enforcement
Warrants: these are not used by North East Lincolnshire Council.

I trust that this Internal Review answers your queries in relation to your
request, and clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance
with the Freedom of Information Act. 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Alan French

Court Enforcement Manager

 

 

show quoted sections

Adele Butterworth

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of North East Lincolnshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'Debt Recovery'.

Thank you for responding to my email, however, it was overlooked that I queried whether there were any agreements in respect of Newlyn Plc and Jacobs Certificated Bailiffs.

Also it was not made clear whether a redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been removed.

My second point is that in the council considering section 43(2) was correctly applied, it appeared to be with complete disregard of the reasons I provided in argument to how it could prejudice the commercial interests.

To reiterate:

"...and will provide the reasons why the information cannot be deemed commercially sensitive.

The schedule of fees and charges connected with distress (schedule 5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, stipulate the amount of fees which may be imposed for each measure taken to enforce the amount owing to the council. The amount cannot deviate where the charges are prescribed, and for those measures where they are not prescribed, the fees and charges for the respective actions are described as fees and charges reasonably incurred.

Therefore, the law in effect dictates that there are no factors to consider surrounding commercial sensitivity in the tendering process and whichever bailiff firm is contracted to carry out enforcement for North East Lincolnshire Council would equally have its profits dictated by the standard charging structure under schedule 5.

It would also be unlawful for the bailiff firm to pay from fees (under schedule 5) a commission to the authority to obtain a commercial advantage. It would also be unlawful if it were to carry out other work on the council's behalf "for free" (administration for example) which is additional to that described under the fees and charges connected with distress (schedule 5).

I understand that the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government has issued guidance to all local authorities (Good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears) and states that "Local Authorities should ensure that fees are transparent to the public and open to scrutiny, for example by publishing their standard scale of fees on their website."

ADDITIONALLY

The Service Level Agreement includes what is expected of Rossendales to deliver which is over and above work they can claim payment for through statutory fees.

This would appear to be the only factors which are likely to prejudice any commercial interests.

A point worth noting is that because these services are provided "ex gratia", the question must arise as to how the bailiff firm goes about compensating itself for the effective loss made through the terms of contract. The debtor would appear to provide this compensation through paying inflated fees, for which is provided in law "reasonable costs incurred"

Though it's not stated that commission is paid to NELC, the extras they are contracted to deliver for free is likely to be why residents are being fleeced, for example, with van attendance fees. This would make up for contractually having to do free work for the council.

At paragraph 3.39 of the SLA, conditions are laid out regarding the contractor taking on council administration work (making payment arrangements with debtors). Similarly at paragraph 3.45 it is clear they are involved in setting up and administering attachments of earnings, and at 3.49 deal with complaints which require responding to in writing. Paragraph 3.53 states that the firm must supply case reports on any number of debts requested.

The regulations (where not prescribed) only provide for "Reasonable costs and fees incurred". Because legislation was passed in parliament to apply to in-house enforcement, profit is not allowed for nor is covering overheads of a private firm.

The fees currently charged by private bailiffs must already be considered unreasonable because profits are being made. But if the bailiff firm is able to absorb extra work, the charges cannot by definition be considered "Reasonable costs and fees incurred". It must mean householders are being charged more than regulations allow, suggesting that the law is being broken.

There is clearly room for a more comprehensive response which I hope will be forthcoming in the review.

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

Yours faithfully,

Adele Butterworth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

 

Thank you for your further correspondence regarding you information
request, reference number, 6688_1314

We are currently considering your correspondence and you can expect a
response within the 20 working days.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

show quoted sections

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth
 
There is no specific service level agreement between North East
Lincolnshire Council and Newlyn Plc and Jacobs Certificated Bailiffs.
 
A redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been
removed.
 
I have reviewed the exemption applied to the Bailiff tendering criteria
and I’m satisfied that it had been applied correctly and that the process
of Bailiff tendering is commercially sensitive.
I trust that this answers your queries in relation to your request, and
clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act. 
If you still believe that North East Lincolnshire Council has not acted in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act please request an
independent review by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council
 
Feedback Officer
Resources Directorate
 

show quoted sections

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

"A redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been removed."

NELC is lying. How much longer are these crooks going to be allowed to get away with it?

The redemption charge comes under head H of the statutory prescribed fee schedule. Between 2007/08 and 2012/13 a charge under this header was imposed on 1,418 North East Lincs residents. The remarkable thing is that the number of times goods had been removed in that period could at most be counted on one hand.

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

"A redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been removed."

I have been told that the above is untrue.

Will you please comment on the following information that was disclosed to me?:

"The redemption charge comes under head H of the statutory prescribed fee schedule. Between 2007/08 and 2012/13 a charge under this header was imposed on 1,418 North East Lincs residents. The remarkable thing is that the number of times goods had been removed in that period could at most be counted on one hand. "

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

 

Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to Freedom of
Information Request 6688_1314 which stated:

 

Will you please comment on the following information that was disclosed to
me?

 

It may be helpful if I explain that the Freedom of Information Act (2000)
gives individuals and organisations the right of access to all types of
recorded information held, at the time the request is received, by public
authorities such as North East Lincolnshire Council. Section 84 of the Act
states that in order for a request for information to be handled as a
Freedom of Information (FOI) request, it must be for recorded information.
For example, a Freedom of Information request would be for a copy of a
policy, rather than an explanation as to why we have that policy in place.
On occasion, the North East Lincolnshire Council receives requests that do
not ask for recorded information, but ask more general questions about,
for example, a policy, opinion, comment or a decision. In this instance I
am satisfied that your request falls outside of the scope of the Freedom
of Information Act as it is not a request for recorded information but is
a request for a comment or interpretation .

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

show quoted sections

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

You are one slippery customer aren't you.

It is clear I should have anticipated that you would not treat my query as a query querying your response but as an attempt to submit another FoI request which you would engage FOIA 2000 legislation to avoid responding.

I will spell it out that on the face of it NELC's response appears untrue, therefore I'm questioning why.

Rather than asking you to comment, please state whether NELC's response was correct.

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to Freedom of Information Request 6688_1314.

A redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been removed.

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer
Resources Directorate

show quoted sections

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

I'm having trouble understanding with conflicting information.

The redemption charge must be something other than this statutory head H fee then? Or else, between 2007/08 and 2012/13 where a charge was imposed 1,418 times, the number of times goods were removed would have also been around the same number?

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth

Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to Freedom of Information Request 6688_1314.

The Freedom of Information act gives you the right to request information from North East Lincolnshire Council. As your correspondence is requesting assistance in understanding information provided in your FOI Request. It would be more appropriate to discuss your queries directly with the Council Tax Recovery Team.

Contact information

Contact: Council Tax Liability and Billing team (Telephone and postal enquiries only )
Address: Civic Offices, Knoll Street, Cleethorpes, NE Lincolnshire , DN35 8LN
Telephone: 01472 323840
Email: [email address]

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer
Resources Directorate

show quoted sections

Ron (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Adele!

I'll try to make some sense of this for you.

From what I can gather, NELC has allowed its bailiff contractor to raise enforcement fees unlawfully which incidentally the council has denied and even lied about to Humberside police's fraud dept.

Endless months battling with the council, Information Commissioner and the respective Tribunal eventually resulted in the authority supplying data relating to the number of times North East Linc's resident had been stung.

The Council now states that;

"A redemption charge is imposed for the return of goods where they had been removed."

This latest statement goes against what it claimed previously, which was that the fee could be imposed where goods had NOT been removed ie left at the debtor's premises.

The change in stance is most probably down to public scrutiny and/or police interest.

If there is no obstruction to this FOI request, we might get a clearer picture of any reform in the council's policy regarding unlawful bailiff fees.

(Schedule 5 Head H & C Enforcement fees)
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...

George Cant left an annotation ()

hi

i wopuld be interested in further information relating to this part of there responce

Does the Council check that Bailiffs operating on their behalf perform correctly when dealing with vulnerable people, such as the elderly, unemployed , unable to pay, or people who are ill?
Yes

Would the origional poster ask them to clarify that, ask, how do they check, what regularity, and most crutialy, how many times have they had to do this in relation to a baillifs action since 2004.

Ifyou need any further detial ( the origional poster ) drop me an email

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

Would you please elaborate on the response which answered "Yes", to the following:

"Does the Council check that Bailiffs operating on their behalf perform correctly when dealing with vulnerable people, such as the elderly, unemployed , unable to pay, or people who are ill?"

I assume that if checks are carried out this will be detailed ie, recorded information.

Additionally, would there not be such checks carried out prior to instructing bailiffs and in those cases where vulnerability was identified, the option to use bailiff enforcement would be determined inappropriate?

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

The Real Neil Gilliatt left an annotation ()

Another waste of time FOI request brought to you by Neil Gilliatt

(Dictionary corner brought to you by mr can't)

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Butterworth
 
Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to Freedom of
Information Request 6688_1314 which asked:
 
Would you please elaborate on the response which answered "Yes", to the
following:
 
"Does the Council check that Bailiffs operating on their behalf perform
correctly when dealing with vulnerable people, such as the elderly,
unemployed , unable to pay, or people who are ill?"
 
I assume that if checks are carried out this will be detailed ie, recorded
information.
 
Additionally, would there not be such checks carried out prior to
instructing bailiffs and in those cases where vulnerability was
identified, the option to use bailiff enforcement would be determined
inappropriate?
 
The Freedom of Information Act (2000) gives individuals and organisations
the right of access to all types of recorded information held, at the time
the request is received, by public authorities such as North East
Lincolnshire Council. Section 84 of the Act states that in order for a
request for information to be handled as a Freedom of Information (FOI)
request, it must be for recorded information. For example, a Freedom of
Information request would be for a copy of a policy, rather than an
explanation as to why we have that policy in place. On occasion, the North
East Lincolnshire Council receives requests that do not ask for recorded
information, but ask more general questions about, for example, a policy,
opinion or a decision. In this instance I am satisfied that your request
falls outside of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act as it is not
a request for recorded information but is a request for an elaboration
about, a policy or a decision.
 
As your correspondence is unsuitable to be dealt with under the Freedom of
information Act it would be more appropriate to discuss your queries
directly with the Council Tax Recovery Team.
 
Contact information
 
Contact:        Council Tax Liability and Billing team (Telephone and
postal enquiries only )
Address:        Civic Offices, Knoll Street, Cleethorpes, NE Lincolnshire
, DN35 8LN
Telephone:      01472 323840
 
If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
 
Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council
 
Feedback Officer
Resources Directorate
 
 

show quoted sections

Adele Butterworth

Dear PPD - FOI,

I'll take your response as "No! NELC does not make any checks".

I obviously assumed wrongly that this would be recorded information.

Yours sincerely,

Adele Butterworth

Adele Butterworth left an annotation ()

@ Ron

"If there is no obstruction to this FOI request, we might get a clearer picture of any reform in the council's policy regarding unlawful bailiff fees.

(Schedule 5 Head H & C Enforcement fees)
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s... "

I see they refused the information....clearly something to hide.

Adele Butterworth left an annotation ()

http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/GetAsset.aspx?...

"Please Note: Bailiffs acting for North East Lincolnshire Council ceased to charge Header H fees in May 2013 "

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