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

Gwyn Worth made this Freedom of Information request to Torridge District Council

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The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Torridge District Council

Thank you for your information request which is receiving attention. We will respond to your request within the 20 working day statutory deadline.

Please do not reply to this auto acknowledgement.

FOI, Torridge District Council

Dear Gwyn

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request.

Please find below the response from Torridge District Council which has been provided by the Council Tax Team.

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 request and should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer at Torridge District Council, Riverbank House, Bideford EX39 2QG

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you 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.

Answers as follows:

At Torridge District Council all unmatched payments are allocated to the oldest year debt rather than the current year.

If a customer makes contact to confirm what bill their payment is for a manual intervention can be taken to allocate the payment accordingly.

Regards

Leah

Leah Povey, HR Advisor
Torridge District Council, Riverbank House, Bideford, Devon, EX39 2QG
Tel: 01237 428788 Fax: 01237 428799
E-mail: [email address]

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Dear FOI,

Thank you for your response. I consider Torridge 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 (except 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 by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Torridge District Council

Thank you for your information request which is receiving attention. We will respond to your request within the 20 working day statutory deadline.

Please do not reply to this auto acknowledgement.