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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Slough Borough Council

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_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

This is to acknowledge receipt of your FOI request which is receiving attention

_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

Dear Gwyn

Slough Borough Council have it set to only allocate to current year if it matches the current year instalment exactly; or, if the customer is on a payment arrangement, the payment matches the arrangement instalment exactly.

If the payment doesn't match the expected instalment, it allocates the payment to the oldest outstanding debt. It will not allocate a non-Enforcement Agent payment to a notice period that is with the Enforcement Agent unless all periods are at the Enforcement Agent bailiff.

If there is no previous year debt then any payment will be allocated to current year.

We considered very carefully when making this decision, if a recovery document goes out and the Customer contacts us and states they made a payment and it is not showing and it was allocated to a previous year we will remove the recovery document and allocate the payment to the current year while providing advice about clearing the previous years debts.

Regards, SBC FOI Officer

-------------------------------------------
From: Gwyn Worth[SMTP:[email address]]
Sent: 02 November 2017 09:13:27
To: FOI
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship Auto forwarded by a Rule

Dear Slough 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 Slough Borough 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 _FreedomOfInformation,

Thank you for your response. I consider Slough Borough 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 any of the council's response (I may well have done ) I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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