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

Gwyn Worth made this Freedom of Information request to Bath and North East Somerset Council

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The request was partially successful.

Dear Bath and North East Somerset 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 Bath and North East Somerset Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Information Governance, Bath and North East Somerset Council

Dear Mr Worth,

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000

 

Thank you for your recent request for information. Your request is being
dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 a public authority has 20
working days to respond to a request.  Accordingly you will receive our
full response in due course.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Information Governance Team

Risk and Assurance Services

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Telephone: 01225 396658

[1]www.bathnes.gov.uk

 

Bath & North East Somerset – The place to live, work and visit 

 

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Information Governance, Bath and North East Somerset Council

1 Attachment

Dear G Worth,

 

Thank you for your recent request for information. Please find enclosed
the information you are entitled to receive under the (legislation).

 

I trust that we have answered your queries, however if you have any
further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

If you are unhappy with the response to your request, you may ask for an
internal review within 40 working days of receipt of this request. Please
contact the Divisional Director – Risk and Assurance Services, Mr Jeff
Wring at the Guildhall, High St, Bath BA1 5AW
[1]mailto:[email address].

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to appeal directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF [2]www.ico.org.uk

 

Please refer to the disclaimer regarding reuse which can be found on the
Council website at:

[3]http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/your-...

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Information Governance Team

Risk and Assurance Services

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Telephone: 01225 396658

[4]www.bathnes.gov.uk

 

Bath & North East Somerset – The place to live, work and visit

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email

 

 

 

From:  Gwyn Worth <[FOI #439799 email]>

Sent:    20 October 2017 09:06

To:       Information Governance

Subject:           Freedom of Information request - Ensuring customers are
not subject to

unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship

 

 

Dear Bath and North East Somerset 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 Bath and North East Somerset Council have its computer software
set to deal with non

specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Gwyn Worth

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Dear Information Governance,

Thank you for your response. I consider Bath and North East Somerset 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 by the council indicating 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 (other than relying on customer contact) 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 from what I have stated above I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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