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

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Burnley Borough Council

Thank you for your enquiry. Your enquiry will now be assigned to the
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Burnley Borough Council
Town Hall
Manchester Road
Burnley
BB11 9SA

FOI
FOI
Town Hall

Ext -----
01282 425011

[1]Burnley Borough Council

[2]Burnley Borough Council [3]Burnley Investment [4]Burnley Borough
Council

 

Burnley Borough Council, Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire.
BB11 9SA

 

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Mollie Wiggin, Burnley Borough Council

Dear Sirs,

 

Thank you for your recent freedom of information request.

 

If you have previous year's arrears on your account and you do not pay the
exact amount of the current year's instalment the payment will be
allocated to your arrears.

Kind regards, Mollie Wiggin.

Mollie Wiggin
Legal Assistant
Governance Law & Reg

Ext 3260
01282 425011

[1]Burnley Borough Council

[2]Burnley Borough Council [3]Burnley Investment [4]Burnley Borough
Council

 

Burnley Borough Council, Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire.
BB11 9SA

 

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Dear Mollie Wiggin,

Thank you for stating that 'if you have previous year's arrears on your account and you do not pay the exact amount of the current year's instalment the payment will be allocated to your arrears'.

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place 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

Claudia Wilcock, Burnley Borough Council

Dear Gwyn,

 

Please see response below to your recent freedom of information request.

 

The software that we use has a sophisticated matching routine, that
performs a series of logical checks when a customer pays an amount that
doesn’t match one of their instalments. If, after exhausting these checks,
there is no reason to allocated the payment to the current year, then it
will be posted to the oldest debt first. If the debtor requests that the
payment is allocated to current year's arrears, then the payment would be
moved to avoid unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.

 

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the
council to conduct a review of its decision under the council's complaints
procedure. The review will be carried out by someone who has not been
involved in dealing with your request for information. Please e-mail or
write if you would like a review.

If, following the review, you remain dissatisfied with the council's
treatment of your request then you may take your complaint to the
Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF.

 

Regards,

 

Claudia Wilcock

Governance, Law & Regulation

Town Hall, Manchester Road

Burnley BB11 9SA

Tel: 01282 425011

 

Claudia Wilcock
Business Administration Apprentice
Governance Law & Reg

Ext 3122
01282 425011

[1]Burnley Borough Council

[2]Burnley Borough Council [3]Burnley Investment [4]Burnley Borough
Council

 

Burnley Borough Council, Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire.
BB11 9SA

 

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Dear Claudia Wilcock,

Thank you for stating that unmatched payments will be posted to the oldest debt first.

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check that allocating an unmatched payment to the oldest debt in these circumstances (other than relying on customer contact) 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 Claudia Wilcock,

I apologise for the sending almost the same email as previously (it was unintentional). However, I did not really have the initial query clarified.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Claudia Wilcock, Burnley Borough Council

Dear Gwyn,

Please see the response below to your recent Freedom Of Information request.

As previously explained, the software that we use performs a series of logical checks when a customer pays an amount that doesn’t match one of their instalments. If there is no logical reason to allocate the payment to the current year (i.e. it doesn’t match or closely resemble an instalment amount, and we haven’t received a specific instruction from the customer) then it will be posted to the oldest debt first. According to case law (eg “Clayton’s case”), the correct approach in allocating payments which do not match an instalment is to apply to the oldest debt first and that is how our software is configured. This is the case even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears. However, if the debtor requests that the payment is allocated to current year's arrears, then the payment would be moved to avoid unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.

Regards,

Claudia Wilcock
Governance, Law & Regulation
Town Hall, Manchester Road
Burnley BB11 9SA
Tel: 01282 425011

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the council to conduct a review of its decision under the council's complaints procedure. The review will be carried out by someone who has not been involved in dealing with your request for information. Please e-mail or write if you would like a review.
If, following the review, you remain dissatisfied with the council's treatment of your request then you may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

show quoted sections

Dear Claudia Wilcock,

Thank you for your reply.

Re; "According to case law (eg “Clayton’s case”), the correct approach in allocating payments which do not match an instalment is to apply to the oldest debt first and that is how our software is configured. This is the case even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears."

Clayton’s case does not apply in cases involving several distinct accounts. The following quoted from the judgment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devaynes_v... confirms that the case involved 'a banking account, where all the sums paid in form one blended fund.....'

"But I think the present case is distinguishable from any of those in which that point has been decided in the creditor's favour. They were all cases of distinct insulated debts, between which a plain line of separation could be drawn. But this is the case of a banking account, where all the sums paid in form one blended fund, the parts of which have no longer any distinct existence.”

Regarding council tax, the local authority issue a bill each year relating specifically to that year's liability.

See also the House of Lords "Cory Brothers & Company Ltd. v "Mecca" (Owners of Turkish Steamship)"

“The rule in Clayton's Case (1 Mer. 572)
that where there is an account current be-
tween parties, and payments are made with-
out appropriation by either debtor or cre-
ditor, such payments are to be attributed to
the earliest items in the account, does not
apply to a case in which debts arise from
distinct transactions which are not brought
into a common account, and where....”

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Dear Claudia Wilcock,

I would appreciate some feedback to the points I made in my 23 November 2017 concerning your response to my Freedom of Information request.

For example, has the council's Monitoring Officer assessed whether it is still appropriate (and lawful) to rely on “Clayton’s case” to allocate payments which do not match an instalment to the oldest debt (even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears)?

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Burnley Borough Council

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Dear Burnley Borough Council,

Please find below the contents of my email sent on 19 December 2017. I have been informed that the message was not delivered.

"Dear Claudia Wilcock,

I would appreciate some feedback to the points I made in my 23 November 2017 concerning your response to my Freedom of Information request.

For example, has the council's Monitoring Officer assessed whether it is still appropriate (and lawful) to rely on “Clayton’s case” to allocate payments which do not match an instalment to the oldest debt (even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears)? "

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Dear Burnley Borough Council,

Will you please acknowledge receipt of my 21 December 2017 request/clarification.

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Dear Burnley Borough Council,

Will you please acknowledge receipt of my 21 December 2017 and 1 March 2018 request/clarification.

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Burnley Borough Council

Thank you for your enquiry. Your enquiry will now be assigned to the
relevant service unit, for an officer to respond directly to you.
 
Burnley Borough Council
Town Hall
Manchester Road
Burnley
BB11 9SA
FOI
FOI
Town Hall

Ext -----
01282 425011

[1]Burnley Borough Council

[2]Burnley Borough Council [3]Burnley Investment [4]Burnley Borough
Council

Burnley Borough Council, Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire.
BB11 9SA

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References

Visible links
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Dear Burnley Borough Council,

Further to your 23 April 2018 communication, can you please say whether you intend to deal with this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Burnley Borough Council

Hi Gwyn,

Thank you for your email. We haven't received your FOI request. Please can you forward it on and I will assign to the relevant officer.

Regards,
Claudia

show quoted sections

Dear FOI,

Please find below my email of 23 November 2017

'Dear Claudia Wilcock,

Thank you for your reply.

Re; "According to case law (eg “Clayton’s case”), the correct approach in allocating payments which do not match an instalment is to apply to the oldest debt first and that is how our software is configured. This is the case even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears."

Clayton’s case does not apply in cases involving several distinct accounts. The following quoted from the judgment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devaynes_v... confirms that the case involved 'a banking account, where all the sums paid in form one blended fund.....'

"But I think the present case is distinguishable from any of those in which that point has been decided in the creditor's favour. They were all cases of distinct insulated debts, between which a plain line of separation could be drawn. But this is the case of a banking account, where all the sums paid in form one blended fund, the parts of which have no longer any distinct existence.”

Regarding council tax, the local authority issue a bill each year relating specifically to that year's liability.

See also the House of Lords "Cory Brothers & Company Ltd. v "Mecca" (Owners of Turkish Steamship)"

“The rule in Clayton's Case (1 Mer. 572)
that where there is an account current be-
tween parties, and payments are made with-
out appropriation by either debtor or cre-
ditor, such payments are to be attributed to
the earliest items in the account, does not
apply to a case in which debts arise from
distinct transactions which are not brought
into a common account, and where....” '

I then asked in an email of 19 December 2017 the following:

'I would appreciate some feedback to the points I made in my 23 November 2017 concerning your response to my Freedom of Information request.

For example, has the council's Monitoring Officer assessed whether it is still appropriate (and lawful) to rely on “Clayton’s case” to allocate payments which do not match an instalment to the oldest debt (even where the effect is to put the current year debt in arrears)? '

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Robie-Lea Stowell, Burnley Borough Council

Hi Gwyn,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request.

This is a null response

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the
council to conduct a review of its decision under the council's complaints
procedure. The review will be carried out by someone who has not been
involved in dealing with your request for information. Please e-mail or
write if you would like a review.

If, following the review, you remain dissatisfied with the council's
treatment of your request then you may take your complaint to the
Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF.

Kind Regards,

Robie-Lea Stowell

 

Robie-Lea Stowell
Business Administration Apprentice
Legal and Democratic Svs

Ext 3112
01282 425011

[1]Burnley Borough Council

[2]Burnley Borough Council [3]Burnley Investment [4]Burnley Borough
Council

Burnley Borough Council, Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire.
BB11 9SA

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References

Visible links
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2. http://www.burnley.gov.uk/
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