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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Tania Robinson, Richmond upon Thames Borough Council

Handle as: Official

 

Our Ref: L/TR/richmond21529

 

Dear Gwyn Worth

Thank you for your request for information received on 10 October 2017.

Your request is being considered and the information will be provided
within the 20 working day statutory timescale, this is subject to the
information not being exempt or containing reference to any third party.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 defines a number of exemptions, if any
of these exemptions apply to the information you have requested then the
information may not be released. You will be informed if this is the case
along with details of your right to appeal.

The application of an exemption may mean that the information you have
requested may take longer to provide than the 20 working day limit. If
this is the case you will be notified in writing along with the additional
time required to consider your application.

If the information you have requested contains references to a third party
then they may have to be consulted before the information can be released.
If this is the case you will be notified in writing.

If you have any queries please contact us.

Regards

 

FOI Team

 

IMPORTANT:
This email and any of its attachments are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received
this message in error you must not print, copy, use or disclose the
contents to anyone. Please also delete it from your system and inform the
sender of the error immediately. Emails sent and received by Richmond and
Wandsworth Councils are monitored and may be subsequently disclosed to
authorised third parties, in accordance with relevant legislation.

FOI, Richmond upon Thames Borough Council

Handle as: Official

Our Ref: KU/richmond21529

 

Dear Gwyn Worth,

 

Your request for information which was received on 10 October 2017 has
been considered.

 

Please find our response below.

Your request:

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

Our response:

Oldest year’s liability.

I hope you are satisfied with this response.

 

If you are dissatisfied please let us know in writing, setting out your
reasons why and send to:

 

FOI & Complaints Manager

FOI & Complaints Team

3rd Floor Civic Centre

44 York Street

Twickenham

TW1 3BZ

E-mail: [1][Richmond upon Thames Borough Council request email]

 

IMPORTANT:
This email and any of its attachments are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received
this message in error you must not print, copy, use or disclose the
contents to anyone. Please also delete it from your system and inform the
sender of the error immediately. Emails sent and received by Richmond and
Wandsworth Councils are monitored and may be subsequently disclosed to
authorised third parties, in accordance with relevant legislation.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Richmond upon Thames Borough Council request email]

Dear FOI,

Thank you for stating that Thames Borough Council allocates non-specific payments to the Oldest year’s liability.

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

FOI, Richmond upon Thames Borough Council

Handle as: Official

Our Ref: L/KU/richmond21568

 

Dear Gwyn Worth

Thank you for your request for information received on 18 October 2017.

Your request is being considered and the information will be provided
within the 20 working day statutory timescale, this is subject to the
information not being exempt or containing reference to any third party.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 defines a number of exemptions, if any
of these exemptions apply to the information you have requested then the
information may not be released. You will be informed if this is the case
along with details of your right to appeal.

The application of an exemption may mean that the information you have
requested may take longer to provide than the 20 working day limit. If
this is the case you will be notified in writing along with the additional
time required to consider your application.

If the information you have requested contains references to a third party
then they may have to be consulted before the information can be released.
If this is the case you will be notified in writing.

If you have any queries please contact us.

Regards

 

FOI Team

 

IMPORTANT:
This email and any of its attachments are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received
this message in error you must not print, copy, use or disclose the
contents to anyone. Please also delete it from your system and inform the
sender of the error immediately. Emails sent and received by Richmond and
Wandsworth Councils are monitored and may be subsequently disclosed to
authorised third parties, in accordance with relevant legislation.

FOI, Richmond upon Thames Borough Council

Handle as: Official

Gwyn Worth [1][FOI #437723 email]

 

Our Ref: KU/richmond21568

 

Dear Gwyn Worth,

 

Your request for information which was received on 18 October 2017 has
been considered.

 

Please find our response below.

 

Your request:

 

Thank you for stating that Thames Borough Council allocates non-specific
payments to the Oldest year’s liability.

 

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.?

Our response:

There are no specific measures in place to check the allocation of each
payment received.

The onus is on the customer to pay current year instalments as advised on
their bill, in which case it would be allocated to the current year.

However, if a customer contacted us to advise that a particular
non-matched payment was intended for the current year liability we would
re-allocate the payment as per their instruction.  If any recovery action
had been taken as a direct result of the allocation of that particular
payment then the action would be cancelled and any costs incurred
withdrawn.

 

I hope you are satisfied with this response.

 

If you are dissatisfied please let us know in writing, setting out your
reasons why and send to:

 

FOI & Complaints Manager

FOI & Complaints Team

3rd Floor Civic Centre

44 York Street

Twickenham

TW1 3BZ

E-mail: [2][Richmond upon Thames Borough Council request email]

 

IMPORTANT:
This email and any of its attachments are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received
this message in error you must not print, copy, use or disclose the
contents to anyone. Please also delete it from your system and inform the
sender of the error immediately. Emails sent and received by Richmond and
Wandsworth Councils are monitored and may be subsequently disclosed to
authorised third parties, in accordance with relevant legislation.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #437723 email]
2. mailto:[Richmond upon Thames Borough Council request email]

Dear FOI,

Thank you for clarifying my query. I consider Richmond upon Thames 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 anything by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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