Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship
Dear Monmouthshire 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 Monmouthshire Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?
Dear Gwyn Worth
I refer to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Our system runs through a process of 26 "rules" before posting the cash. This looks at all sorts of options to try to identify the correct year of payment if it's not obvious when the payment is receipted. If all 26 rules are not met, it will allocate to the oldest debt first-but produces a report of all these that are not "hard allocated". A team member will then look at these payments to decide if action is needed to move the payment. Very occasionally it may be post to the wrong year, but there is always a facility to move the payment to the correct year if it later transpires that it was mis-posted.
If you are dissatisfied with the way the Council has handled your request for information, you can request a review by e-mail to mailto:[email address] or by writing to:
PO Box 106
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Data Protection and FoI Officer
Telephone: 01633 644744
Dear Ms Hoggins,
Thank you for your response. I consider Monmouthshire 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*: "A team member will then look at these payments to decide if action is needed to move the payment."