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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth,

I am writing in response to your request for information under the Freedom
of Information Act 2000, received 08/10/17. 

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we have 20 working days to
respond to your request.  Therefore the deadline for our response
is 03/11/17.

If we require further information or clarification from you in order to
assist us in responding to your request, or if we require a fee to be paid
before we can respond we will contact you shortly.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Michelle Barber

Members Liaison Officer /FOI Officer

Resident Services

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth

I am writing in response to your request for information below.

As I understand it you are seeking to know:

How does Hillingdon Council have its computer software set to deal with
non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Our system is set that payments received that are outlined under an
instalment plan, whether that be current liability or historic will be
allocated as such.

 

Random payments, or 'non specific', are allocated to the oldest debt

 

If you have any queries regarding this matter please do not hesitate to
contact me.

If you wish to request an internal review of our response you should
write, within 2 months, to:

Office Managing Partner, Legal Services, Civic Centre, High St, Uxbridge,
UB8 1UW (or via email to [1][Hillingdon Borough Council request email] marked for the attention
of the Office Managing Partner).

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply 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.

Claire Varley
Members Enquiries & Complaints Coordinator
Residents Services
Hillingdon Council
tel: 6015
external: 01895 556015
[2]www.hillingdon.gov.uk

Dear AF FOI,

Thank you for stating that non specific 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

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

FOI 6216157 
Dear Gwyn Worth,

I am writing in response to your request for information below.

 

As I understand it you are seeking to know :

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

 

 

The Council has procedures in place to check each case that has been
raised for summons action prior to service. The accounts are checked to
see if the summons to be issued, are done so correctly. Specifically
officers are asked to look for payments made in the current financial year
and to check the allocation of these payments.

This is to prevent any undue summons and costs being raised as well as to
ensure that payments are being allocated to the correct debt, with an
emphasis on the current year's liability.
Where there are problems with payment the council encourages taxpayers to
concentrate on current year's payments and where possible makes
arrangements. based on individual circumstances, towards arrears.

 

If you have any queries regarding this matter please do not hesitate to
contact me.

If you wish to request an internal review of our response you should
write, within 2 months, to:

Office Managing Partner, Legal Services, Civic Centre, High St, Uxbridge,
UB8 1UW (or via email to [1][Hillingdon Borough Council request email] marked for the attention
of the Office Managing Partner).

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply 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.

 

Kind regards

Michelle Barber

 

Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

Residents Services

London Borough of Hillingdon

2S/03 Civic Centre

 
On 11 October 2017 at 16:29, AF FOI <[2]af[Hillingdon Borough Council request email]> wrote:

Dear Gwyn Worth,

I am writing in response to your request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000, received 08/10/17. 

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we have 20 working days to
respond to your request.  Therefore the deadline for our response
is 03/11/17.

If we require further information or clarification from you in order to
assist us in responding to your request, or if we require a fee to be
paid before we can respond we will contact you shortly.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Michelle Barber

Members Liaison Officer /FOI Officer

Resident Services

Dear AF FOI,

Thank you for confirming how payments are dealt with in circumstances where a customer has outstanding council tax liability for more than one year. It is encouraging that Hillingdon Borough Council is mindful of the principles surrounding the appropriation of payments and implement them.

It is evident that staff deal with payments in a way that complies with appropriation laws (i.e. 'to prevent any undue summons and costs being raised....'). If I understand correctly, this would ensure, even if there has been no express communication in respect of the account a customer intended the payment to be applied to, if it is implied by other circumstances that a specific account had been intended then the payment will be allocated to that debt. If my understanding is incorrect I would appreciate if you would put me right.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Dear AF FOI,

I would appreciate some feedback to the points I made in my 26 October 2017 concerning your response to my Freedom of Information request.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth,
Thank you for your email.
As your enquiry relates to how the service is operated , this is a matter
for the Service Area rather than being a Freedom of Information Request.
I have therefore copied your email to the Appeals and Complaints Team
mailbox to acknowledge and respond to you directly.

Kind regards

Michelle Barber

 

Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

Residents Services

London Borough of Hillingdon

3S/03 Civic Centre

show quoted sections

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth,
My apologies, I am advised that your query should have been directed to
the Council Tax Team to acknowledge and respond.
Your email has now been sent to the appropriate service area. 

Kind regards

Michelle Barber

 

Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

Residents Services

London Borough of Hillingdon

3S/03 Civic Centre

On 10 January 2018 at 12:24, AF FOI <[1]af[Hillingdon Borough Council request email]> wrote:

Dear Gwyn Worth,
Thank you for your email.
As your enquiry relates to how the service is operated , this is a
matter for the Service Area rather than being a Freedom of Information
Request.
I have therefore copied your email to the Appeals and Complaints Team
mailbox to acknowledge and respond to you directly.

Kind regards

Michelle Barber

 

Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

Residents Services

London Borough of Hillingdon

3S/03 Civic Centre

show quoted sections

Dear AF FOI,

Further to your 10 January 2018 correspondence have you been able to obtain the information from the Council Tax Team.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth,
Thank you for your email and apologies if our Council Tax Team have not
responded to you.
I am again forwarding your email to the Council Tax Team to acknowledge
and respond to you.
As previously advised, as your enquiry relates to how the service is
operated , this is a matter for the Service Area to respond rather than a
further Freedom of Information Request.
Dear Council Tax Team,
Gwyn Worth previously raised an FOI request on 8th October 2017 and a
follow up on 20th October that have both been responded to and the FOI
record is closed.
A further enquiry was raised which is a matter for the Service Area and is
no longer being treated as an FOI.
This was sent over on the 10th January , a copy is shown below .
Please can I ask you to respond directly to Gwyn Worth.

Kind regards

Michelle

Michelle Barber

 

Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

Residents Services

London Borough of Hillingdon

3S/03 Civic Centre

show quoted sections

Dear AF FOI,

Further to your 9 March 2018 (and previous) correspondence have you been able to obtain the information from the Council Tax Team.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

AF FOI, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth,
Thank you for your email.
Please accept my apologies on behalf of the London Borough of Hillingdon
if your enquries have not been responded to.
As I previously advised, your enquiry is not being treated as an FOI and
was forwarded to the Council Tax Team to contact you directly, thus the
FOI team have not been copied in on any correspondence.
I am copying the Council Tax Team and the Revenue Manager Maureen
Pemberton to this email and request they make contact with you.
Can I suggest that any future correspondence in relation to this enquiry
are directed to these email addresses.
Kind Regards
Michelle
Michelle Barber 

 Members Enquiry & FOI Liaison Officer

 Residents Services

 London Borough of Hillingdon

 3S/03 Civic Centre

show quoted sections

Council Tax, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Mr Worth
I refer to your enquiry made following the response to your FOI in respect
of council tax and I apologise for the delay in responding.
The response sent to your FOI stated
The Council has procedures in place to check each case that has been
 raised for summons action prior to service. The accounts are checked to
 see if the summons to be issued, are done so correctly. Specifically
 officers are asked to look for payments made in the current financial
year
 and to check the allocation of these payments.

 This is to prevent any undue summons and costs being raised as well as to
 ensure that payments are being allocated to the correct debt, with an
 emphasis on the current year's liability.
 Where there are problems with payment the council encourages taxpayers 
 to concentrate on current year's payments and where possible makes
 arrangements. based on individual circumstances, towards arrears. 
You have asked;
If I understand correctly, this would ensure, even if there has been no
express communication in respect of the account a customer intended the
payment to be applied to, if it is implied by other circumstances that a
specific account had been intended then the payment will be allocated to
that debt. If my understanding is incorrect I would appreciate if you
would put me right. 
I would confirm that if it was possible to detect through other
circumstances that a specific debt was intended the team would allocate
accordingly.
I can advise that the council tax team when carrying out pre-summons
checks examine the following;
Notes pages (Where all action rationales and telephones conversations are
recorded)
outstanding and previous correspondence 
account history
Payment history and allocations.
These checks are done with a view to preventing unnecessary recovery
action, correcting mis-allocation, suppressing service if there are
liability queries etc and encouraging benefit take-up 
The rationale of the team is to maximise current year collection and as
stated in the FOI  to make arrangements for any arrears based on
individuals circumstances. 
I trust that this clarifies the position
Kind Regards

M Pemberton
Revenues Department
London Borough of Hillingdon

Tel: 0300 123 1384
Email: [1][email address]
Hillingdon Council routinely monitors the content of emails sent and
received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with its
policies and procedures. The contents of this message are for the
attention and use of the intended addressee only. If you are not the
intended recipient or addressee, or the person responsible for sending the
message you may not copy, forward, disclose or otherwise use it or any
part of it in any way. To do so may be unlawful. If you receive this email
by mistake please advise the sender immediately. Where opinions are
expressed they are not necessarily those of the London Borough of
Hillingdon. Service by email is not accepted unless by prior agreement.

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Dear Council Tax,

Thank you for clarifying your response. I consider Hillingdon 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).

*NOTE*: "I can advise that the council tax team when carrying out pre-summons checks examine the following; Notes pages (Where all action rationales and telephones conversations are recorded) outstanding and previous correspondence account history Payment history and allocations. These checks are done with a view to preventing unnecessary recovery action, correcting mis-allocation, suppressing service if there are liability queries etc...."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Council Tax, Hillingdon Borough Council

Thank you for your email to the London Borough of Hillingdon Revenues Team
in respect of your council tax.

If you are contacting us to advise of a change in your circumstances you
will be replied to in date and time order.  

Please note if the information you have supplied requires an amendment to
your account and no further information is required, your response will be
in the form of a revised bill sent through the post.   

The Council's website provides general information and forms in respect of
how to register for council tax, apply for single persons discount and
other discounts and exemptions.  You can also access your council tax
account using our online service.  You will need your online key which is
shown on all bills and recovery notices.  You can set up and amend a
direct debit instruction using this service as well as viewing your
instalments due and payments made.

If you are on a low income you can find out more about the Council Tax
Reduction Scheme on our website..

In order to answer any more specific enquiries relating to your own
account it helps us if you have quoted your name, the address of the
property to which your query relates and, where known, the council tax
reference/benefit claim number. If you have omitted any of the above
information from your email, please re-send it with these details.

Revenues Team 

--
Revenues Department
London Borough of Hillingdon

Tel: 0300 123 1384
Email: [1][email address]

Hillingdon Council routinely monitors the content of emails sent and
received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with its
policies and procedures. The contents of this message are for the
attention and use of the intended addressee only. If you are not the
intended recipient or addressee, or the person responsible for sending the
message you may not copy, forward, disclose or otherwise use it or any
part of it in any way. To do so may be unlawful. If you receive this email
by mistake please advise the sender immediately. Where opinions are
expressed they are not necessarily those of the London Borough of
Hillingdon. Service by email is not accepted unless by prior agreement.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

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