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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Rich Kemp, Harrogate Borough Council

Dear Gwyn

 

Thank you for your email which we received on 05/10/2017. We are treating
this as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act
2000. This means that —

 

o if we need more information about what you want, we will contact you
again as soon as we can; the twenty working days in which to give you
the information will start once we know exactly what you want
o if we do not hold the information, we will, if we can, transfer your
request to an authority who does hold it, and tell you what we have
done (please contact us immediately if you do not want us to do this);
otherwise, we will let you know that we do not hold the information
o if we hold the information and there is no reason to withhold it, we
will send it to you as soon as we can.  If there is likely to be a
delay for any reason, we will let you know
o if we believe that there is a good reason why the information should
not be disclosed, we will let you know as much as we can about how we
reached our decision

 

We will respond to your request promptly, and in any event, within the 20
working day limit as set out in s10 of the Act.

 

Regards

 

Rich Kemp LLB (Hons)

(Debt & Information Law)

Legal & Governance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

Harrogate

HG1 9RW

 

tel: 01423 500600 (ext - 58602)

email:  [1][email address]

[2]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

 

Dear Rich Kemp,

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Harrogate Borough Council should normally have responded promptly and by 2 November 2017.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Rich Kemp, Harrogate Borough Council

Good morning Gwyn

 

Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding. The request was
forwarded on to the Revenues section to log and respond to, I have checked
the log however and it does not appear to have happened, I am looking into
why that has occurred on this occasion and have asked the Revenues section
to respond to you asap.

 

Regards

 

Rich Kemp LLB (Hons)

(Debt & Information Law)

Legal & Governance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

Harrogate

HG1 9RW

 

tel: 01423 500600 (ext - 58602)

email:  [1][email address]

[2]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

Please note that I am based at Crescent Gardens, HG1 2SG (for hand
deliveries or personal visits)

 

Benefits Revenues, Harrogate Borough Council

Dear Gwyn

 

I refer to your Freedom of Information request dated 5 October 2017 and
sincerely apologise for the delay in replying.

 

Payments received which do not match one of the 56 posting rules within
our software are allocated to the oldest debt on the account in question. 
Checks are made, however, of accounts with both summonsed and unsummonsed
debt before reminders and/or summonses are issued, to try and ensure that
payments are correctly allocated.

 

If you are not satisfied with the way your request has been handled,
please contact - 

 

Freedom of Information Officer

Council Offices, Crescent Gardens, Harrogate, HG1 2SG 

 

or email [1][Harrogate Borough Council request email]

 

The Council has an internal appeal system.  If your complaint is about the
decision which has been made you will usually be entitled to have your
case reviewed by an officer from a department which has not been involved
in the decision previously.  

 

If, after their decision, you are still not happy, you may appeal to- 

 

The Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545745

Fax: 01625 524510

e-mail: [2][email address]

website: [3]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

Mary Straughan

Senior Revenues Officer

Finance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

HARROGATE

HG1 9RW

email:  [4][email address]        

tel: 01423 500 600                                            

fax: 01423 556 100

[5]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

Lines are open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm - Monday to Thursday and 8.30 am to
4.30 pm on Friday. Please be aware, incoming and outgoing calls may be
recorded for quality, accuracy and training purposes.

 

Please take a few moments of your time to [6]let us know how we performed,
thank you.

 

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Dear Benefits Revenues,

I consider Harrogate Borough 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 by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

*Note*: "Checks are made, however, of accounts with both summonsed and unsummonsed debt before reminders and/or summonses are issued, to try and ensure that payments are correctly allocated."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Benefits Revenues, Harrogate Borough Council

 

Thank you for contacting Revenues and Welfare Services.

 

We have recently launched new and improved online forms for Revenues and
Welfare services. All our online forms can be found [1]here. It is easier
to tell us your information using one of our online forms.

 

If you have emailed to tell Council Tax about a change of address please
use the new [2]Change of Address form to help us provide you with a
better service as it ensures you tell us all the information we need
to update your account correctly.

 

For all other enquiries your email will be looked at as quickly as
possibly however it may take up to 10 working days to respond.

 

We currently have a backlog of 3 weeks for Revenues emails. You may find
the information you are looking for on our website [3]www.harrogate.gov.uk

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Benefits Revenues, Harrogate Borough Council

Response From: Revenue Services, Harrogate Borough Council

Reference: Email received 6 November 2017

Our Ref:  MS/FOI

 

Dear Gwyn

 

Thank you for your email in connection with your earlier Freedom of
Information request.  I have nothing further to add to my previous
response and I decline to comment on your statement.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Mary Straughan

Senior Revenues Officer (T&D)

Corporate Affairs

Finance Service

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

HARROGATE

HG1 9RW

 

Email: [1][email address]

Tel:  01423 500600

 

[2]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

Usual work hours - 8.00 – 16.45 Monday and Tuesday

                                       8.00 - 12.00 Wednesday

 

Please be aware, incoming and outgoing calls may be recorded for quality,
accuracy and training purposes.

 

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show quoted sections

Dear Benefits Revenues,

Thank you for your response.

I have to assume that I may have misjudged the response by taking its meaning to be that the Council acts in a fiduciary capacity by allocating payments in order to prevent further chargers being applied etc.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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