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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Purbeck District Council

Thank you for your information request, which will be dealt with under the
appropriate legislation, according to the subject matter:

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

 

You will receive a response within 20 working days in line with the FOIA. 
If the request will take any longer to process (eg, if we need to consult
third parties or seek clarification from you) we will let you know.

 

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).

 

If environmental information is requested, it must be dealt with under the
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Please note that under the EIR, a charge may be made for supplying
environmental information and the Council introduced charging for
environmental information from 1 April 2016.  The Council’s Charging for
Environmental Information Policy is available to view at
[1]https://www.dorsetforyou.com/article/419...
The Council’s current Fees and Charges can be viewed at
[2]https://www.dorsetforyou.com/article/395...

 

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More details about SAR requests can be found at

[3]https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/dataprot....

 

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Purbeck District Council, Westport House, Worgret Road, Wareham,
Dorset, UK. BH20 4PP Tel:+44 (0)1929 556561, Fax:+44 (0)1929 552688
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References

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1. https://www.dorsetforyou.com/article/419...
2. https://www.dorsetforyou.com/article/395...
3. https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/dataprot...

Jane Hay, Purbeck District Council

Dear Mr Worth

 

Information Request 4022

 

Thank you for your information request dated and received on 31 October
2017 which has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(FOIA).  Our response is below.

 

Payment allocation routines are complex, but in general terms, if there is
no logical match to the current year instalment profile, combination of
instalments or a closing balance, then the transaction would be allocated
to the oldest debt, subject to certain rules.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you may ask
for an internal review. Please email [1][Purbeck District Council request email] or write to
the Performance & Information Officer, Chief Executive’s Department,
Purbeck District Council, Westport House, Worgret Road, Wareham, Dorset,
BH20 4PP if you wish to request a review. If you are not content with the
outcome of the internal review, you then have the right to apply directly
to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

 

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Yours sincerely

 

Jane Hay

Performance & Information Officer

Chief Executive’s Department

 

Purbeck District Council | Westport House | Worgret Road | Wareham |
Dorset | BH20 4PP

Switchboard:  01929 556561

Direct Line:  01929 557325

Email:  [email address]

Website:  www.dorsetforyou.com

 

 

Dear Jane Hay,

Thank you for stating that unmatched payments are allocated to the oldest debt (subject to certain rules).

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

Jane Hay, Purbeck District Council

Dear Mr Worth

Thank you for your follow up question dated 2 November 2017 which I have passed to the Revenues and Benefits Partnership. I will respond to your question as soon as I receive the information from the Partnership.

Yours sincerely

Jane Hay
Performance & Information Officer
Chief Executive’s Department

Purbeck District Council | Westport House | Worgret Road | Wareham | Dorset | BH20 4PP
Switchboard: 01929 556561
Direct Line: 01929 557325
Email: [email address]
Website: www.dorsetforyou.com

Jane Hay, Purbeck District Council

Dear Mr Worth

 

Information Request 4022

 

Further to your follow up question dated 2 November 2017, I have now
received the response from the Revenues and Benefits Partnership, which is
as follows:

 

Our cash posting routines report payments which have been allocated to an
old debt rather than current year instalments.  These reports are checked
daily by the recovery team and if it is deemed that the payment may have
been intended for the current year, or it is in the Council Tax payer’s
interest for the payment to be allocated to the current year to avoid
further costs, then the payment is transferred.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jane Hay

Performance & Information Officer

Chief Executive’s Department

 

Purbeck District Council | Westport House | Worgret Road | Wareham |
Dorset | BH20 4PP

Switchboard:  01929 556561

Direct Line:  01929 557325

Email:  [1][email address]  

Website:  [2]www.dorsetforyou.com  

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Jane Hay,

Thank you for clarifying my query. I consider Purbeck District Council has provided the information I requested. 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's response (see *note*) that there are measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor, and consequently the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are being complied with. This effectively means that 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 I would appreciate if you would correct me.

*Note*: "Our cash posting routines report payments which have been allocated to an old debt rather than current year instalments. These reports are checked daily by the recovery team and if it is deemed that the payment may have been intended for the current year, or it is in the Council Tax payer’s interest for the payment to be allocated to the current year to avoid further costs, then the payment is transferred."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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