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

The request was partially successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

freedomofinformation, Wakefield City Council

Dear Ms Worth,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

Thank you for your email requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which we received on 06/10/2017. It is our intention to have the response delivered to you by 03/11/2017.

I would like to inform you that all requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 might be subject to exemption(s), which the Authority is entitled to apply to refuse the request.

Any future correspondence you may have in relation to this matter should be marked Private & Confidential and sent to the Senior Information Governance Officer, Information Management Team, County Hall, Wakefield WF1 2QW or e-mailed to [Wakefield City Council request email].

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Officer
Corporate Information Governance Team,
City Solicitor’s Office.
Wakefield MDC, County Hall, Wakefield WF1 2QW
Email: [Wakefield City Council request email]
Tel: 01924 306112

freedomofinformation, Wakefield City Council

Dear Mr Worth,
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Request for Information
 
I am writing in respect of your recent enquiry for information held by the
Authority under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
 
Please find the response to your request below.
 
There are a number of cash posting rules for our systems, but for
non-specific payment made by the taxpayer themselves our system is
configured to post these payments to the oldest debt if the payment  does
not match a current year instalment or multiple instalments.
 
If we are informed at a later date where the taxpayer intended the payment
to be allocated, then we would reallocate the payment accordingly.
 
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries
regarding this matter.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Senior Information Governance Officer
Information Governance Team
City Solicitor’s Office
Wakefield MDC
Tel: 01924 306112
E-mail: [Wakefield City Council request email]
 

Dear freedomofinformation,

Thank you for stating that Wakefield City Council's 'system is configured to post these payments to the oldest debt if the payment does not match a current year instalment or multiple instalments'

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 put the current year's liability also in arrears, and if so 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

freedomofinformation, Wakefield City Council

Dear Mr Worth,

Thank you for your e-mail.

I will need to refer your query back to the department that supplied me with the information.

I will do so now, and respond to you as soon as clarification has been received.

In the meantime I am very grateful for your continued patience and co-operation.

Yours sincerely,

Senior Information Governance Officer
Information Governance Team, City Solicitor’s Office
Wakefield Council, County Hall, Wakefield, WF1 2QW
E-mail: [email address]
Tel: 01924 306112

freedomofinformation, Wakefield City Council

Dear Mr Worth,

Further to our previous correspondence, I have now received the following clarification:

Reports are run regularly in order to identify and analyse unmatched payments . Where appropriate, adjustments are then made to the allocation.

The decision to re-allocate an unmatched payment is made after looking at the position of the account as a whole, noting the balance outstanding for each year, what enforcement action is ongoing for current and previous years, and the value of the unmatched payment.

If the decision is to leave the payment allocated to arrears, a consequence of that action could be that the current year's charge may at some point be subject to recovery action. Even if the payment is allocated to the current year, recovery action may still be taken if the payment value is insufficient to bring the account up to date.

I am advised that there is case law on payment appropriation. If the person does not specify what the payment is for, and it is not possible to determine their intention from the amount (i.e. it's an exact instalment amount so it must be for this year), the Council can allocate it where we wish as long as we communicate that to the payer.

I trust that this answers your query.

Yours sincerely

Senior Information Governance Officer
Information Governance Team, City Solicitor’s Office
Wakefield Council, County Hall, Wakefield, WF1 2QW
E-mail: [email address]
Tel: 01924 306112

Dear freedomofinformation,

Thank you for your patience.

I have interpreted the response to mean that even if an unspecified payment posted to the oldest liability was sufficient to bring the current year's account up to date, the payment would not necessarily be moved to avoid potential recovery action etc.

I am aware that there is case law regarding the appropriation of payments and consider R. v Miskin Lower Justices [1953] 1 Q.B. 533 particularly relevant to the request. In that case it was held that where an amount obviously relates to a specific liability, it would be an unwarranted assumption to allocate the payment elsewhere, i.e. it would be an unwarranted assumption to appropriate monies to a sum in arrears if as a consequence the current year's account was put in arrears.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

freedomofinformation, Wakefield City Council

Dear Mr Worth.

Your interpretation appears reasonable to me. However, as you will appreciate, the expertise in such areas lies within the department processing Council Tax payments, rather than my role, which is to consider, under the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000, the disclosure of data which may be held by the Council.

All I can do in the circumstances is to forward your comments to the appropriate department. If your interpretation is incorrect in any way, I will ask that they will advise me accordingly. If you do not hear from me within the
next seven days, please assume that you have interpreted the data correctly.

I hope that this is satisfactory, and thank you very much for your kind patience and co-operation.

Yours sincerely

Senior Information Governance Officer
Information Governance Team, City Solicitor’s Office
Wakefield Council, County Hall, Wakefield, WF1 2QW
E-mail: [email address]
Tel: 01924 306112

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