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

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Dear Chichester 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 Chichester Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Dear Chichester District Council,

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Chichester District Council should normally have responded promptly and by 20 November 2017

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Paula Robinson, Chichester District Council

3 Attachments

Dear Gwyn Worth

 

Thank you for your freedom of information request.

Chichester District Councils  cash system allocates payments on a
waterfall basis any agreed amount be it a statutory instalment or
arrangement instalment is matched with any precise payment.

Any other payment is applied to the oldest debt. This is necessary as
payment against enforcement action such as Attachment of Earnings or
Enforcement Agents payments are rarely a precise sum. It also prevents
older debt that are more likely to go to the Enforcement Agent and incur
cost are evaluated correctly.

Obviously, if a payment is not precise but appears to be appropriate for
the current year it is manually reallocated.   

I trust this answers your request.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review.  Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
original letter and should be addressed to Jane Dodsworth, Head of
Business Improvement Services.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Mrs PM Robinson

 

Paula
Robinson
Taxation
Team Leader
[1]http://www.chichester.gov.uk/chichesterd... Revenues
and
Performance
Chichester
District
Council

 

Ext: 23325 | Tel: 01243785166 | [email address] | Fax: 01243 534751
[2]http://www.chichester.gov.uk
[3]https://support.content.office.net/en-us...

 

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Dear Paula Robinson,

Thank you for stating that 'any other payment is applied to the oldest debt'.

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check that allocating 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

Dear Paula Robinson,

Will you please acknowledge receipt of my 21 November 2017 request for clarification.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Paula Robinson, Chichester District Council

I am currently out of the office and will not be returning , should you require assistance in respect of Council Tax, NDR, Corporate debt or please contact the office directly on 01243 534501 or e-mail on [email address].
Emails to this inbox will not be read in the interim.

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Dear Chichester District Council,

Will you please acknowledge receipt of my 21 November 2017 and 29 April 2018 requests for clarification.

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Victoria Stapleton, Chichester District Council

Thank you for your email. I have a record of your request dated 23rd October 2017 and a response sent on the 21st November 2017. Did you send the follow up to [Chichester District Council request email] or directly to an officer?

Regards

Vicki

Victoria Stapleton
Lead Customer Services Officer
Customer Services
Chichester District Council
Ext: 25707 | Tel: 01243785166 | [email address] | Fax: 01243 534751
http://www.chichester.gov.uk | www.facebook.com/ChichesterDistrictCouncil | www.twitter.com/ChichesterDC

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Dear Victoria Stapleton,

Thank you for your reply. I sent the follow up to on 21 November 2017 directly to an officer. See below:

"Dear Paula Robinson,

Thank you for stating that 'any other payment is applied to the oldest debt'.

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check that allocating 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

Victoria Stapleton, Chichester District Council

Thank you for your response. Unfortunately your follow-up request does not seem to have been registered and the officer concerned has since left the authority. I will register it today and pass it to our Revenues team for a response within 20 working days.

I apologise for the delay in dealing with your request.

Regards

Vicki

Victoria Stapleton
Lead Customer Services Officer
Customer Services
Chichester District Council
Ext: 25707 | Tel: 01243785166 | [email address] | Fax: 01243 534751
http://www.chichester.gov.uk | www.facebook.com/ChichesterDistrictCouncil | www.twitter.com/ChichesterDC

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Jason Barnes, Chichester District Council

Dear Mr Worth

 

I refer to your request for information under the Freedom of Information
Act. Please accept my apologies for the confusion from your follow up
email last year.

 

You requested the following;-

 

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check
that allocating 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.? "

 

Cash posting rules will look for the following with regard to current year
unsummoned debt (including reminder stage;-

 

The receipt is for the same value as a single combined instalment in the
current billing year

The receipt is for the same value as a single instalment that makes up a
combined instalment in the current billing year

The receipt is for the same value as a recovery notice that was issued
during the current year

The receipt is for the same value as several recovery notices

The receipt will be matched against the last combined bill notice

The receipt is for the same value as the sum of two or three combined
instalments

The receipt is for the same value as the total arrears for the account
(incl current year)

The receipt will match against a combined instalment plus a special
arrangement instalment

The receipt will match against total unsummoned or summonsed debt
outstanding

 

If a payment is intended for the current financial year, and it is bought
to our attention then the payment will be manually allocated to the
intended financial year.

 

I trust this information is as requested.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review.  Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
original letter and should be addressed to Nicholas Bennett, Divisional
Manager of Democratic Services.

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Jason Barnes

Principal Revenues Officer

Revenues and Performance

Chichester District Council

Ext: 23099 | Tel: 01243785166 | [email address] | Fax:
01243534751

http://www.chichester.gov.uk | www.facebook.com/ChichesterDistrictCouncil
| www.twitter.com/ChichesterDC

 

 

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Dear Jason Barnes,

Thank you for your response. I consider Chichester 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 by the council being unable to confirm that there are 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

taxation, Chichester District Council

Dear Mr Worth

Chichester DC uses the Northgate revenues software system for the provision of council tax.

As I advised you previously, payments are allocated in accordance with a number of system rules, as listed in my email to you dated 19 June 2018. If it is bought to our attention that a payment is intended for a specific year then that payment will be allocated accordingly.

Any other payments received where there are previous years balances outstanding and the payment does not match the amount due for current year instalments or agreed payment plans they are allocated to the oldest outstanding debt on the account. If the payment is allocated against the oldest debt on an account this could potentially avoid further enforcement action costs being incurred (for example Enforcement Agent fees).

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to Nicholas Bennett, Divisional Manager of Democratic Services.

Yours sincerely

Jason Barnes
Principal Revenues Officer
Revenues and Performance
Chichester District Council
Ext: 23099 | Tel: 01243785166 | [email address] | Fax: 01243534751
http://www.chichester.gov.uk | www.facebook.com/ChichesterDistrictCouncil | www.twitter.com/ChichesterDC

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Dear taxation,

"If the payment is allocated against the oldest debt on an account this could potentially avoid further enforcement action costs being incurred (for example Enforcement Agent fees)."

The above would seem to achieve nothing in the way of benefiting the customer if because of the allocation to the oldest debt the in-year account also is put in arrears. The net result would mean that rather than having ONE year's liability subject to potential enforcement, bankruptcy, committal proceedings or a charging order, the customer would have TWO year's liability potentially subject to those burdens.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

taxation, Chichester District Council

Thank you for your email.
It is our normal practice to deal with correspondence in date order; you will receive a response by bill, email, form or letter as soon as possible.
Did you know that the quickest and easiest way to access Council Tax and Business Rates services is online? For more details and information on registering for this service please visit our website http://www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount
We are currently seeking views on our Local Council Tax Reduction (CTR) scheme for 2019/20 to find out more and to complete the short survey please visit www.chichester.gov.uk/letstalk<http://www.chichester.gov.uk/letstalk>
If you are on a low income you make a claim for Council Tax Reduction and/or Housing Benefit online at www.chichester.gov.uk/benefits<http://www.chichester.gov.uk/benefits>.
________________________________

Did you know?

* There is an automated telephone payment line available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for payments of Council Tax, Business Rates and Housing Benefits Overpayments?

Simply telephone 01243 534880 with your bill or invoice and debit card ready and follow the simple instructions.

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