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

The request was partially successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Gleadhill, Lynn, Salford City Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Worth,

 

Please find the response to your request as attached.

 

Thank you

Lynn

 

 

Dear Salford City 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 Salford City 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 Ms Gleadhill,

Thank you for stating that unmatched payments are allocated to the oldest debt.

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

Gleadhill, Lynn, Salford City Council

Dear Mr Worth,

In answer to the below question there are measures in place to ensure the payments are correctly matched.

If a customer is paying in accordance with their instalments on their current financial year then it will automatically match it.

If the payment does not match any instalment plan our systems are set up to post to the oldest debt on the account.

The customer should always match their instalment plan exactly in order to prevent this from happening.

Thank you
Lynn

Lynn Gleadhill
Principal Information Governance Officer
Service Reform
Salford City Council
Innovation House
Civic Centre
Chorley Road
Swinton
M27 5DA
E   [email address]

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Dear Ms Gleadhill,

Thank you for your response. I consider Salford City 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 being unable to confirm that there are measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor 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 from what I have stated above I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Gleadhill, Lynn, Salford City Council

Dear Mr Worth,

The council believes that by providing the customers with instalment plans the appropriate measures are in place to allocate customer payments correctly.

The council would only allocate to the oldest debt if a payment plan is not matched and if there were arrears on the account. If the customers account had no arrears it would automatically be paid against the current financial year.

If a customer fails to meet the requested instalment but informs us at the time that his intention was to pay towards a specific year then we will also reallocate this at their request. The exception to this would be if the customer has avoided further costs by having the payment on their arrears and then also requests it to be moved to their current financial year to avoid costs on that account also.

The council believes that we have the appropriate measures in place but do not monitor every individual account and we expect the customer to take responsibility when making payments on their account.

I hope this fully answers your questions.

Thank you
Lynn

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Dear Ms Gleadhill,

I still consider that the council does not have adequate measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor and therefore the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are not being complied with.

However, I'm unsure how the circumstances would arise as are set out in the following:

"The exception to this would be if the customer has avoided further costs by having the payment on their arrears and then also requests it to be moved to their current financial year to avoid costs on that account also."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Gleadhill, Lynn, Salford City Council

Dear Mr Worth,

I have passed your email with your further queries to the appropriate department who will contact you shortly.

Thank you
Lynn

Lynn Gleadhill
Principal Information Governance Officer
Service Reform
Salford City Council
Innovation House
Civic Centre
Chorley Road
Swinton
M27 5DA
DD    0161 793 2940
E   [email address]

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