Explanation of Liability Order Costs calculations produced by Carmarthenshire County Council

The request was partially successful.

Dear Carmarthenshire County Council (hereafter "CCC"),

I refer you to the FOI Internal Review response provided by Robert Edgecombe at the following link https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c... and specifically the spreadsheet attached to it, entitled “Copy of Recovery Costs CTax calcs 2015 16 with 2016 17 uplift work sheet 3”.

Kindly answer the following questions with reference to the spreadsheet:

1) Volumes Analysis tab (hereafter “VAtab”) “Document Complexity Weighting”s are attached to documents. The basis for these complexity weightings is unclear, although the linear increase in stated weightings would appear to correspond to a theoretical chronology of document issue. Is it not the case that the template of a Summons document would be exactly the same in respect of one Council Tax reference number as it would of another? As such, kindly answer the following questions:

i) What, if anything, makes the completion of a Summons template document more complex than the completion of any other Summons template document?

ii) What makes the completion of a Summons template document (weighting = 5) more complex than the completion of a Final Notice template document (weighting = 4)?

iii) Why is the document complexity weighting of a "Reminder#2" document shown as "3" in cell D10, then as "4" in cells C21 and C36?

iv) Please supply a template/redacted version of each of the six documents listed in the spreadsheet under VAtab;

v) Please confirm which of these document types was issued by CCC - i.e. sent as a tangible document - to named entities wherever applicable during the year 2014-15, in contradistinction to being documents that were generated but never issued;

vi) Does CCC in 2022-23 continue to (a) generate; and (b) issue or intend to issue to a named entity wherever applicable, tangible versions of each of the documents listed in the spreadsheet under VAtab?

vii) In all cases where a document type was not generated at all in 2014-15, on what basis has it been given a document complexity weighting?

2) VAtab, cell B10: How can this cell have no value if the percentage (cell C10) = “4”?

3) VAtab, cell A25, referring to cell A18: “[Final Notice] figure amended to match number resulting in Summons”. Both totals show as “9711”. The note in cell A25 implies that the Final Notice number was probably higher before amendment, therefore additional workload applies to the disregarded Final Notice documents (i.e. those over and above the stated 9711 Summons documents). Why has the Final Notice documents figure been amended in this way?

PREAMBLE TO QUESTION 4
VAtab, Complexity/Workload “Elements culminating in Liability Order Applications” appear to have been duplicated as shown in the following examples:

Final Notice workloads of “38844” apply to each of the following: Recovery Team, Council Tax Staff and Council Tax Service costs;

Summons workloads of “48555” apply to each of the following: Recovery Team, Council Tax Staff and Council Tax Service costs.

On the “Detailed breakdown” tab (hereafter “DBtab”), cost calculations are applied on the basis of team/service workload percentages calculated on the VAtab, for instance, 49% for the Recovery Team. These percentages are calculated by applying to each team/service the following formula:

[(Document generation quantity X Document complexity weighting) in respect only of Documents “culminating in Liability Order Applications” concerning which that team/service has an involvement] ÷ [(Document generation quantity X Document complexity weighting) in respect of all Documents concerning which that team/service has an involvement] X 100

To use the example of the Recovery Team, this means that, of all generated documents in which this team has an involvement, 49% were documents “culminating in Liability Order Applications” generated by CCC. (We can deduce therefore that 51% of documents produced by the Recovery Team were deemed to be those NOT culminating in Liability Order Applications).

This of course says nothing concerning the extent of Recovery Team workload in respect of a particular document’s generation; only that this workload was purported to be greater than nil. Indeed the only document type which appears to have fallen exclusively under the budget of the Recovery Team was the Liability Order itself (in that a positive figure appears in cell E19, whereas cells E34 and E46 show "0"). As already noted, all other documents "culminating in Liability Order Applications", viz. Summons and Final Notice, are common to the workloads of three teams/services.

On the DBtab, column C shows multiple members of staff listed, and the percentages in column C indicate that 11 members of staff received a salary for relevant work in the Recovery Team (identifiable as those with 49% workloads) and 4 members of staff received a salary as part of the “C-Tax Service Costs” (those with 13.96% weightings).

The point is this: complexity-derived workloads have already been calculated and applied to the total quantity produced of any applicable document; therefore, how can these costs be applied to staff members and/or budgets from more than one team/service?

To use a (deliberately oversimplified) example to demonstrate the problem: if Document A has an intrinsic complexity factor of “2” on a weighted scale of document complexity, and Team X alone processes quantity ONE of Document A, this has a total workload of 1 x 2 = “2”, contributed entirely by Team X.

If then Team Y are deployed to share equally (for simplicity’s sake) the workload with Team X, it cannot now be said that either team exerts a workload of “2”, for in reality the workload for both teams individually has now been halved. In other words, Team X processes quantity ZERO POINT FIVE of Document A, with a total workload of 0.5 x 2 = “1”.

4) Therefore, please explain the basis on which these apparently duplicated workloads have been allowed to form part of the calculations on the DBtab, ultimately feeding into CCC’s calculations for the costs incurred in producing Liability Orders.

Please note that it would appear to be impossible to justify these apparently duplicated workloads by now stating that different teams/services are actually completing differentiated tasks in respect of these documents, for example one team generating a document and another team advising designated taxpayers in respect of that document. Such a differentiation is neither indicated by the "document complexity weighting" calculations and/or quantities (which are clearly stated as referring only to document generation), nor is it justifiable through a claim that total "document complexity" actually takes into account all subsequent related actions pertaining to a given document beyond its generation and issue - unless it can be shown that an analysis of all such practical actions has been carried out and has determined that workloads are in fact divided perfectly evenly between all teams (i.e. so as to justify a Summons workload of "48555" in the case of each team/service). For this to be so, it must then be admitted that "document complexity" does not relate only to the quality/quantity of generation and issue of a document, and purported "complexity" must then incorporate aspects such as time spent assisting designated taxpayers in relation to each specific document, in which case extant supporting data would be required to validate these calculations.

5) DBtab cell C16 states that actual Legal Fees and Costs were £3 x 4760. “4760” is stated in cell C20 (“Postages”) to be the number of “reminders and summonses”. These numbers are vastly different to those stated on the VAtab for the documents “Reminder”, “Reminder#2” and/or “Summons”, but the figure 4670 is only one fewer than the number of Liability Orders (“4761”, VAtab cell B8). Therefore, please respond to the following:

i) Kindly explain the two figures used here in terms of what they refer to, viz. “£3” and “4760”.

ii) If the figure 4760 does indeed refer to the number of Liability Orders, kindly explain the discrepancy of 1 from the total shown on VAtab (i.e. 4761 Liability Orders);

iii) To whom was payment made in each instance of the figure of £3 cost incurred (cell C16)? It is apparent that this cost is included ultimately in cell L68 (Recovery Team) under cost projections for 2015-16, but who was the recipient of this fee in 2014-15; and who is the recipient of any such fee in 2022-23?

6) DBtab cell H79 shows that your calculation for Liability Order cost is “[£]28.98”. On what basis has this been rounded to “[£]30.00” in cell B86?

Yours faithfully,

james orme

FOIA, Carmarthenshire County Council

Diolch am eich gohebiaeth.

Os ydych yn gwneud cais am wybodaeth, bydd y cyfnodau isod yn berthnasol:

 Deddf Rhyddid Gwybodaeth 2000 (DRhG) a’r Rheoliadau Gwybodaeth
Amgylcheddol 2004 (RhGA) - 20 diwrnod gwaith, oni bai bod angen eglurhad
arnom ynghylch y wybodaeth yr ydych yn gofyn amdano.

 Deddf Diogelu Data 2018 a Rheoliad Cyffredinol ar Ddiogelu Data y DU
(ceisiadau ynghylch data personol) – un mis ar ôl derbyn y cais.

Os bydd angen eglurhad arnom ar unrhyw agwedd o’ch cais, byddwn yn
cysylltu â chi mor gynted ag y bo modd.

Thank you for your correspondence.

If you are making a request for information, the following timescales will
apply:

 Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) & Environmental Information
Regulations 2004 (EIR) - 20 working days, unless we need clarification
regarding the information you are seeking.

 Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR (requests relating to personal data) –
one month from the receipt of the request.

If we do need to clarify any aspect of your request, we will contact you
as soon as possible.

Tîm Rheoli Gwybodaeth | Information Governance Team
Gweithrediadau a Llywodraethu TG | ICT Operations & Governance
Adran y Prif Weithredwr | Chief Executive’s Department

Mae croeso i chi gysylltu â ni yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg |
You are welcome to contact us in Welsh or English

FOIA, Carmarthenshire County Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Orme,

Thank you for your request, which was received on 19th September 2022 and has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

We will address your questions in the order they were presented, using numbered points as headings for ease of reference.

However, before we respond, we should also explain that Section 1 of the FOIA provides a general right of access to information held by public authorities, and requires the Council to confirm whether relevant information is held and if so, provide a copy of that information (subject to certain exemptions).

This right of access applies only to information that is recorded and held at the time a request is made. The Council is not required to create new information or personal data in order to respond to a request, nor therefore provide comments, statements or explanations where these do not form part or the whole of an existing record.

"1) Volumes Analysis tab (hereafter “VAtab”) “Document Complexity Weighting”s are attached to documents. The basis for these complexity weightings is unclear, although the linear increase in stated weightings would appear to correspond to a theoretical chronology of document issue. Is it not the case that the template of a Summons document would be exactly the same in respect of one Council Tax reference number as it would of another? As such, kindly answer the following questions:

i) What, if anything, makes the completion of a Summons template document more complex than the completion of any other Summons template document?"

This is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

"ii) What makes the completion of a Summons template document (weighting = 5) more complex than the completion of a Final Notice template document (weighting = 4)?"

As above, this is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

"iii) Why is the document complexity weighting of a "Reminder#2" document shown as "3" in cell D10, then as "4" in cells C21 and C36?"

As above, this is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

"iv) Please supply a template/redacted version of each of the six documents listed in the spreadsheet under VAtab;"

Please find attached the templates requested.

"v) Please confirm which of these document types was issued by CCC - i.e. sent as a tangible document - to named entities wherever applicable during the year 2014-15, in contradistinction to being documents that were generated but never issued;"

All of the above were issued in 2014/15.

"vi) Does CCC in 2022-23 continue to (a) generate; and (b) issue or intend to issue to a named entity wherever applicable, tangible versions of each of the documents listed in the spreadsheet under VAtab?"

Yes.

"vii) In all cases where a document type was not generated at all in 2014-15, on what basis has it been given a document complexity weighting?"

Not applicable.

"2) VAtab, cell B10: How can this cell have no value if the percentage (cell C10) = “4”?"

The figure for B9 includes the number of second reminders issued – it was not possible to provide a separate figure.

"3) VAtab, cell A25, referring to cell A18: “[Final Notice] figure amended to match number resulting in Summons”. Both totals show as “9711”. The note in cell A25 implies that the Final Notice number was probably higher before amendment, therefore additional workload applies to the disregarded Final Notice documents (i.e. those over and above the stated 9711 Summons documents). Why has the Final Notice documents figure been amended in this way?"

This is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

"PREAMBLE TO QUESTION 4

VAtab, Complexity/Workload “Elements culminating in Liability Order Applications” appear to have been duplicated as shown in the following examples:

Final Notice workloads of “38844” apply to each of the following: Recovery Team, Council Tax Staff and Council Tax Service costs;

Summons workloads of “48555” apply to each of the following: Recovery Team, Council Tax Staff and Council Tax Service costs.

On the “Detailed breakdown” tab (hereafter “DBtab”), cost calculations are applied on the basis of team/service workload percentages calculated on the VAtab, for instance, 49% for the Recovery Team. These percentages are calculated by applying to each team/service the following formula:

[(Document generation quantity X Document complexity weighting) in respect only of Documents “culminating in Liability Order Applications” concerning which that team/service has an involvement] ÷ [(Document generation quantity X Document complexity weighting) in respect of all Documents concerning which that team/service has an involvement] X 100

To use the example of the Recovery Team, this means that, of all generated documents in which this team has an involvement, 49% were documents “culminating in Liability Order Applications” generated by CCC. (We can deduce therefore that 51% of documents produced by the Recovery Team were deemed to be those NOT culminating in Liability Order Applications).

This of course says nothing concerning the extent of Recovery Team workload in respect of a particular document’s generation; only that this workload was purported to be greater than nil. Indeed the only document type which appears to have fallen exclusively under the budget of the Recovery Team was the Liability Order itself (in that a positive figure appears in cell E19, whereas cells E34 and E46 show "0"). As already noted, all other documents "culminating in Liability Order Applications", viz. Summons and Final Notice, are common to the workloads of three teams/services.

On the DBtab, column C shows multiple members of staff listed, and the percentages in column C indicate that 11 members of staff received a salary for relevant work in the Recovery Team (identifiable as those with 49% workloads) and 4 members of staff received a salary as part of the “C-Tax Service Costs” (those with 13.96% weightings).

The point is this: complexity-derived workloads have already been calculated and applied to the total quantity produced of any applicable document; therefore, how can these costs be applied to staff members and/or budgets from more than one team/service?

To use a (deliberately oversimplified) example to demonstrate the problem: if Document A has an intrinsic complexity factor of “2” on a weighted scale of document complexity, and Team X alone processes quantity ONE of Document A, this has a total workload of 1 x 2 = “2”, contributed entirely by Team X.

If then Team Y are deployed to share equally (for simplicity’s sake) the workload with Team X, it cannot now be said that either team exerts a workload of “2”, for in reality the workload for both teams individually has now been halved. In other words, Team X processes quantity ZERO POINT FIVE of Document A, with a total workload of 0.5 x 2 = “1”.

4) Therefore, please explain the basis on which these apparently duplicated workloads have been allowed to form part of the calculations on the DBtab, ultimately feeding into CCC’s calculations for the costs incurred in producing Liability Orders.

Please note that it would appear to be impossible to justify these apparently duplicated workloads by now stating that different teams/services are actually completing differentiated tasks in respect of these documents, for example one team generating a document and another team advising designated taxpayers in respect of that document. Such a differentiation is neither indicated by the "document complexity weighting" calculations and/or quantities (which are clearly stated as referring only to document generation), nor is it justifiable through a claim that total "document complexity" actually takes into account all subsequent related actions pertaining to a given document beyond its generation and issue - unless it can be shown that an analysis of all such practical actions has been carried out and has determined that workloads are in fact divided perfectly evenly between all teams (i.e. so as to justify a Summons workload of "48555" in the case of each team/service). For this to be so, it must then be admitted that "document complexity" does not relate only to the quality/quantity of generation and issue of a document, and purported "complexity" must then incorporate aspects such as time spent assisting designated taxpayers in relation to each specific document, in which case extant supporting data would be required to validate these calculations."

This is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

"5) DBtab cell C16 states that actual Legal Fees and Costs were £3 x 4760. “4760” is stated in cell C20 (“Postages”) to be the number of “reminders and summonses”. These numbers are vastly different to those stated on the VAtab for the documents “Reminder”, “Reminder#2” and/or “Summons”, but the figure 4670 is only one fewer than the number of Liability Orders (“4761”, VAtab cell B8). Therefore, please respond to the following:

i) Kindly explain the two figures used here in terms of what they refer to, viz. “£3” and “4760”"

The figure in C16 (4760) refers to Liability Orders. We accept that there is a small variance of 1, between this figure and the number provided in cell B8 (Volumes Analysis). The figure of £3 is the court fee per Liability Order.

"ii) If the figure 4760 does indeed refer to the number of Liability Orders, kindly explain the discrepancy of 1 from the total shown on VAtab (i.e. 4761 Liability Orders);"

Please refer to the response provided above.

"iii) To whom was payment made in each instance of the figure of £3 cost incurred (cell C16)? It is apparent that this cost is included ultimately in cell L68 (Recovery Team) under cost projections for 2015-16, but who was the recipient of this fee in 2014-15; and who is the recipient of any such fee in 2022-23?"

To payments were made to the court.

"6) DBtab cell H79 shows that your calculation for Liability Order cost is “[£]28.98”. On what basis has this been rounded to “[£]30.00” in cell B86?"

This is asking a comment or explanation, rather than recorded information and we are not obliged to provide such a comment under FOIA.

Your right of appeal

If you are unhappy with our response, you have the right to make an appeal in the first instance to:

The Head of Administration & Law
Carmarthenshire County Council
County Hall
Carmarthen
SA31 1JP

Email: [email address]

If you remain unhappy with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Website: www.ico.gov.uk

There is no charge for making an appeal.

Yours sincerely

Tîm Rheoli Gwybodaeth | Information Governance Team
Gweithrediadau a Llywodraethu TG | ICT Operations & Governance
Adran y Prif Weithredwr | Chief Executive’s Department

Mae croeso i chi gysylltu â ni yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg |
You are welcome to contact us in Welsh or English