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

Gwyn Worth made this Freedom of Information request to Rugby Borough Council

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Contact Centre, Rugby Borough Council

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THIS E-MAIL AND ANY ATTACHED FILES ARE CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY BE LEGALLY
PRIVILEGED.

If you have received this transmission in error or are not the addressee,
any disclosure, reproduction, copying, distribution or other dissemination
or use of this communication is strictly prohibited. The information
contained in this e-mail may be the subject of public disclosure under the
Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
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disclosure, the confidentiality of this e-mail and your reply cannot be
guaranteed. Visit http://www.rugby.gov.uk for more information.

Thank you for your co-operation.

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Sue Birch, Rugby Borough Council

1 Attachment

 

 

Sue Birch

Communications, Consultation & Information Officer

(01788) 533864

 

Dear Sue Birch,

Thank you for stating that 'Rugby Borough Council’s system allocates non-specific payments to the oldest balance outstanding.'.

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

Sue Birch, Rugby Borough Council

Dear Mr Worth

Revenues have confirmed that we don't have any process to check unmatched payments. However if a customer contacts us we can, and would move payments around for them.

I hope that this answers your query.

Yours sincerely

Sue Birch
Communications, Consultation & Information Officer
(01788) 533864

Dear Sue Birch,

Thank you for your response. I consider Rugby 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 from the council's explanation 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 (except 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