Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship

Gwyn Worth made this Freedom of Information request to South Kesteven District 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 successful.

Dear South Kesteven District Council,

A council taxpayer who owes more than just the current year's liability runs the risk of incurring additional recovery costs through a further application for a liability order if payments which are intended for the current year's liability are allocated by the council's computer to the previous year's liability. This would most likely happen where a non specific payment is made and the computer software is set to automatically allocate these payments to the oldest year's debt.

Councils computer systems have the necessary flexibility to be set to allow non specific payments to be allocated to the arrears or the current year's liability.

I understand that the majority of billing authorities have their computer software set to ensure that their customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship, i.e. so non specific payments are allocated to the current year's liability.

How does South Kesteven Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Customer Services, South Kesteven District Council

Dear Mr Worth

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Information Request

Reference No: 1123952

I acknowledge your request for information received into the Legal & Democratic Services on 23/10/2017.

Your request for information has been placed before:-

Assistant Director

Richard Wyles

Corporate Finance Manager

01476 406080

[email address]

Service Manager(s)

Jeanette Strutt

Revenues Manager

01476 406080

[email address]

If the information is held by the Council, you will receive the information requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days (20/11/2017), subject to the information not being exempt or containing reference to a third party.

For your information, the Act defines a number of exemptions, which may prevent release of the information you have requested. There will be an assessment and if any of the exemption categories apply then the information will not be released. You will be informed if this is the case, including your rights of appeal.

If the information you request contains reference to a third party then they may be consulted prior to a decision being taken on whether or not to release the information to you. You will be informed if this is the case.

If appropriate, the information may be provided in paper copy, normal font size. If you require alternative formats, e.g. language, audio, large print, etc. then please let us know.

If you have any queries or concerns then please contact us at:

South Kesteven District Council

Council Offices

St. Peters Hill

Grantham

Lincolnshire

NG31 6PZ

Telephone: 01476 406080

Further information is also available from the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113

Fax: 01625 524510

Website: www.ico.org.uk

Yours sincerely

Service Manager(s)

The information contained in this e-mail along with any attachments may be confidential, legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure. It is intended for the named individual(s) or entity who is/are the only authorised recipient(s). If this message has reached you in error please notify the sender immediately and delete it without review.

Email is not secure and may contain viruses. We make every effort to ensure email is sent without viruses, but cannot guarantee this and recommends recipients take appropriate precautions. We may monitor email traffic data and content in accordance with our policies and English law.

Customer Services, South Kesteven District Council

Dear Mr Worth

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Information Request

Reference No: 1123952

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which we received on 23 October 2017 regarding the allocation of council tax payments.

In response I would advise that when a payment is received which matches an outstanding amount (e.g. outstanding instalment or outstanding amount for a financial year) then it is allocated accordingly. Any 'non-specific payments' are generally allocated to the oldest outstanding debt but they can be reallocated if, for example, the council tax payer contacts us to advise that a payment is intended for a specific year/debt.

If you have any queries or concerns then please contact me.

Further information is also available from the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113

Fax: 01625 524510

Website: www.ico.org.uk

Yours sincerely

Adrian

Adrian Johnson Tech IRRV

Revenues Recovery Team Co-ordinator

South Kesteven District Council

Council Offices, St. Peters Hill

Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6PZ

•: 01476 406080 (Ext 1088)

E : [email address]<mailto:[email address]>

www.southkesteven.gov.uk<http://www.southkesteven.gov.uk/>

The information contained in this e-mail along with any attachments may be confidential, legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure. It is intended for the named individual(s) or entity who is/are the only authorised recipient(s). If this message has reached you in error please notify the sender immediately and delete it without review.

Email is not secure and may contain viruses. We make every effort to ensure email is sent without viruses, but cannot guarantee this and recommends recipients take appropriate precautions. We may monitor email traffic data and content in accordance with our policies and English law.

Dear Customer Services,

Thank you for stating that "any 'non-specific payments' are generally allocated to the oldest outstanding".

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place (other than relying on the the council tax payer to make contact) to check that allocating an unmatched payment to the oldest debt in these circumstances would have the consequences of putting the current year's liability also in arrears, and if so, in accordance with R. v Miskin Lower Justices [1953] 1 Q.B. 533, whether the payment would be moved in respect of the current year's account to avoid unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.?

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

ADRIAN JOHNSON,

Dear Mr Worth,

 

Thank you for your email (copied below) sent as a consequence to our
response to your recent request for information under the FOI Act.

 

In response I would advise that we do not have any specific ‘measures’.
However, payments can (and are) reallocated where it is considered
appropriate to do so in individual cases.

 

Kind regards

 

Adrian

 

 

Dear ADRIAN JOHNSON,

Thank you for your response. I consider South Kesteven District Council has provided the information I requested, however, the purpose of this exercise was to ascertain whether or not the principles surrounding the appropriation of payments were being adhered to.

R v Miskin Lower Justices (1953)

It was held in R v Miskin Lower Justices, that where an amount obviously relates to a specific liability, it would be an unwarranted assumption to allocate the payment elsewhere.

If no instruction is given at the time of payment, then the council has a duty to allocate payment to the account which it is most beneficial to the debtor to reduce. That would be in the majority of cases the current liability if the consequences of allocating payment to the arrears meant that the customer was subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.

I understand from the council's explanation that there are no measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor that the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are not being complied with. If the laws of appropriation were being complied with, an unmatched payment allocated to the oldest debt (having the consequences of putting the current year's liability also in arrears) would be reallocated to the current year's liability on account of the circumstances implying that this was the debtor's intention (least burdensome for the debtor). If it appears I have misunderstood anything by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth