No checks made before to issuing court summons

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, North East Lincolnshire Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

I have it on good authority that Council Tax summonses are not checked individually before they are issued.

Parameters are agreed in advance by the relevant manager and set in its Council Tax processing system relating to the number of days behind and the monetary value etc., and summonses are issued on this basis.

The process is therefore completely automated yet a cost of £60 is recharged to the defendant. I'm aware it is unlawful to recharge an amount to the defendant which exceeds the council's incurred expenditure.

I would therefore like disclosing exactly what expenditure is incurred in addition to the obvious costs of stationary and postage for the authority to arrive at a £60 sum.

Yours faithfully,

Becky Saunder

George Cant left an annotation ()

Hi there

i have some info on this if your interested.

Your correct that its not checked, but it is supposed to be checked.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

 

Thank you for your information request, reference number 8816_1415.

 

I wish to confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council holds the following
information.

 

 

Details of how the summons cost of £60 has been calculated can be found on
our website, using the link below

 

[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/resident/counc...

 

 

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

The calculation you have linked to just shows the Gross Collection and Recovery budget which has then, through an elaborate series of deductions, estimated the percentage of which the council considers is attributable to recovery.

Much of the expenditure falls outside the boundaries that the law provides.

With it being stated that the process of issuing a summons is entirely automated, the council is falsely representing its accounts by including staff costs.

All I require is the costs of issuing a summons, nothing else.

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Becky Saunder (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Thanks George.

Would be very interested to know what's behind councils entering into court proceedings as if it's a game.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your follow up request for information, which
has been allocated the reference number 8816_1415.

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

show quoted sections

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

 

Further to your email dated 14^th November 2014 concerning your
information request, reference number 8816/1415.

 

I wish to confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council has provided you
with all the information they hold in respect of this matter.

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

Confidentiality Note:  I am not authorised to bind my authority
contractually, nor to make representations or other statements which may
bind the authority in any way via electronic means.

 

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?

 

Not protectively marked

 

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Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of North East Lincolnshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'No checks made before to issuing court summons'.

North East Lincolnshire Council is lying.

By law, the council have to know how much the sum is.

I have proof that the sum can easily be calculated. You can check out for yourself by reading an account of one of NELC's recent blunders.

Here: http://www.legalbeagles.info/forums/show...

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

Yours faithfully,

Becky Saunder

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your correspondence and wish to confirm that
an Internal Review of the handling of your Information Request 8816_1415
is to take place.

 

The Internal Review has been passed to the relevant department for
processing and you can expect your response within the 20 working day
limit. If it will take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you,
we will inform you of this and provide you with the expected date for
receiving a response.

 

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

 

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

show quoted sections

Enid Brighton (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Unless I'm mistaken NELC charges £70 in respect of the summons, which is the same costs it imposes on debtors where their cases proceed to application for a liability order. However, the summons costs should be a lesser sum than the total in respect of being granted the liability order. There is no such distinction in the way NELC applies costs which suggests they are unlawfully front loaded to the summons.

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) revenue statistics show that North East Lincolnshire Council raised £1,194,000 in court costs for council tax cases in 2013/14.

The same source shows that 17,197 summonses were issued and £533,000 was collected for the same tax year leaving a difference of £661,000 (equivalent to 9,442 summonsed accounts uncollected)

This suggests that NELC waived, withdrew or could not collect the costs of an equivalent 55% accounts that were summonsed for which those individuals who did pay them had to pay an inflated sum.

The council factors into its calculation an element to allow for summonses which are withdrawn, unrecoverable or waived. In doing this, it is obvious that the defendants left actually paying the costs are paying an inflated sum to either compensate for the councils error of judgement or subsidise the costs of those others having them waived for reasons likely that they agree to the council's favourable terms, for example, switching their method of payment to Direct Debit.

The certainty is, that by loading extra costs on to the debtor for expenditure otherwise unrecoverable, the council would not be justified in stating to the Magistrates' court that the amount claimed by way of costs in any individual case is no more than that reasonably incurred by the authority.

The law does not provide that the billing authority may increase the costs in respect of one debtor from whom collection is easy in order to pay another's costs whose payment is not so easily obtained.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunders

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information request reference
8816_1415, concerning checks made before issuing court summons.

I have reviewed the response provided to you and the handling of your
request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and find:

o That your request was responded to within the statutory time of 20
working days;
o That you were informed whether or not the information you asked for
was held by North East Lincolnshire Council;
o That you were provided with the information you asked for available
under the Freedom of Information Act; and
o That your response provided you with your rights of appeal. 

I am therefore satisfied that the Council has acted in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act in the handling of your request.

I note in your internal review request that you state that the Council
must, by law, know the sum in question. As previously informed all
recorded information held by North East Lincolnshire Council in relation
to this has previously been disclosed and provided to you. It is available
on the North East Lincolnshire Council website. If you believe there is a
point in law on which this can be challenged then there are avenues
available for you to pursue this. The Freedom of Information Act and
requests under it are not the appropriate channel for this, as any
response would address the points you are raising based on information
held, it is not North East Lincolnshire Council’s duty under the Freedom
of Information Act to comment on your interpretation of legislation or
provide you with legal interpretation or advice.

It may be helpful if I explain that the Freedom of Information Act (2000)
gives individuals and organisations the right of access to all types of
recorded information held, at the time the request is received, by public
authorities such as North East Lincolnshire Council. Section 84 of the Act
states that in order for a request for information to be handled as a
Freedom of Information (FOI) request, it must be for recorded information.
For example, a Freedom of Information request would be for a copy of a
policy, rather than an explanation as to why we have that policy in place.
On occasion, North East Lincolnshire Council receives requests that do not
ask for recorded information, but ask more general questions about, for
example, a policy, opinion or a decision. In this instance I am satisfied
that all the available information has been provided to you and the
further queries you have raised are based on interpretation of legislation
and the information and your subsequent disagreement with this. To
re-iterate, all recorded information held has been provided to you in
previous responses.

I trust that this Internal Review answers your queries in relation to your
request, and clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance
with the Freedom of Information Act. 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

 

show quoted sections

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

You state below:

"If you believe there is a point in law on which this can be challenged then there are avenues available for you to pursue this."

Not sure whether it's pure front or cowardice that NELC uses the corrupt court and police system as a shield to hide behind.

How does a billing authority instigate court action so erroneously (as below) for it even to involve "Action Fraud" and still claim it carries out its business lawfully?

http://www.legalbeagles.info/forums/show...

(Misallocating payments and ignoring email to exploit Magistrates court costs)

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

There is something you're very much misunderstanding. The law does not exist for the council to put its own interpretation on. Why do you think £millions of public money each year goes into making the laws?

North East Lincs Council should be aiming to comply with the relevant law, not to impose sums which it thinks are recoverable costs from the debtor. The relevant law being that which provides for the expenditure billing authorities are permitted to recharge to the debtor (regulation 34 of SI 1992/613).

It is immaterial that NELC considers that the regulations ought to provide that all additional administration costs etc., attributable to recovery are rechargeable to the debtor to minimise the financial burden on taxpayers in general.

NELC, like any other billing authority, requires a Revenues & Benefits department where inevitably recovery activities are undertaken requiring staff to do that work.

It can not be justifiably argued that because taxpayers in general might bear a financial cost of recovery that the law be interpreted in a way it is not written. In any event, it is likely no other council service operates on a principle where any group of residents who don't benefit from a service have no obligation to pay for it. An example, of which there will be many, are residents who don't benefit from public libraries but pay for the service all the same.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) revenue statistics show that North East Lincolnshire Council raised £1,194,000 in court costs for council tax cases in 2013/14.

The same source shows that 17,197 summonses were issued and £533,000 was collected for the same tax year leaving a difference of £661,000 (equivalent to 9,442 summonsed accounts uncollected)

This suggests that NELC waived (or could not collect) the costs of an equivalent 55% accounts that were summonsed for which the individuals who did pay them had to pay an inflated sum.

The council factors into its calculation an element to allow for summonses which are withdrawn, uncollectible or waived. In doing this, it is obvious that the defendants left actually paying the costs are paying an inflated sum to either compensate for the councils error of judgement or subsidise the costs of those others having them waived for reasons likely that they agree to the council's favourable terms, for example, switching their method of payment to Direct Debit.

The certainty is, that by loading extra costs on to the debtor for expenditure otherwise unrecoverable, the council would not be justified in stating to the Magistrates' court that the amount claimed by way of costs in any individual case is no more than that reasonably incurred by the authority.

The law does not provide that the billing authority may increase the costs in respect of one debtor from whom collection is easy in order to pay another's costs whose payment is not so easily obtained.

Councils are not allowed free rein to elect which budgets they cover with court costs. For example, the regulations do not allow councils to cover, or aim to cover their gross collection and recovery expenditure, but make provision only for costs that they reasonably incur. Defining boundaries confine these costs still further to include only expenditure incurred by the authority in obtaining the order, therefore not to include ongoing costs of maintaining and monitoring payment plans etc.

In cases where, after receiving a summons, a debtor elects (or makes a proposal) to pay the outstanding debt before the hearing – under which circumstances the application would not proceed – the boundaries are confined still further to include only costs incurred in connection with instituting the summons. Similarly as per the previously mentioned it is not legitimate to include costs of setting up and monitoring payment plans etc., where payment is by agreement under regulation 21(5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulation 1992.

North East Lincs Council charges all its costs in respect of the summons, and not in accordance with the law providing court costs at two stages.

The procedure is clarified in an Explanatory Memorandum prepared by the Local Government Finance Division of the Welsh Assembly Government. See §§4.2–4.3 under the heading “Summons/ Liability Order” (emphasis added):

http://www.assemblywales.org/sub-ld8430-...

“4.2. When council tax payers...fail to make their payments as scheduled in their demand notices, they will receive reminder notices, second reminder notices and final notices. Should they still fail to pay the amount outstanding or come to an agreement with the local authority, a summons may be issued for their appearance at the Magistrates Court. THE ISSUE OF A SUMMONS ADDS A COST TO THE DEBTOR'S ACCOUNT

4.3. If the debtor is unable to pay the balance in full prior to the court hearing date they are required to attend court. The Council will request that the Magistrates’ Court grant a liability order for the debt in question. THIS PROCEDURE WILL INCUR A FURTHER COST FOR THE DEBTOR.”

The opportunity arises for the council to apply appropriate costs firstly in respect of instituting the summons and secondly where the complaint has proceeded to court where the appropriate costs include additional expenditure in prosecuting the case

North East Lincs Council charges its full £70 costs in respect of the summons, which is the same sum it imposes on debtors where their cases proceed to application for a liability order. However, the summons costs should be a lesser sum than the total in respect of being granted the liability order. There is no such distinction in the way NELC applies costs which suggests the costs are unlawfully front loaded to the summons.

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

re,

"If you believe there is a point in law on which this can be challenged then there are avenues available for you to pursue this."

Your attitude is not in keeping with what is expected from a public servant in a position of apparent seniority. The bravado, no doubt, will be down to the fact that whoever North East Lincolnshire Council manages to provoke into legally challenging it will be faced personally with the financial risk, whilst the council has available to it any amount of Council Taxpayer's money to splash around on expensive legal representation.

Having said that, perhaps I'll take up your offer to challenge the ultra vires actions of North East Lincolnshire Council.

Let's first though level the playing field and proceed in either of the following two ways:

1) As the case would involve a matter of general public importance,

– both parties costs are borne by North East Lincolnshire Council, including those of appointing equally matched legal representatives.

– or –

2) The responsible person within North East Lincolnshire Council faces the financial cost personally (not protected with public money) as would I the opposing party.

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

North East Lincolnshire Council said:

"If you believe there is a point in law on which this can be challenged then there are avenues available for you to pursue this."

Ask North East Lincolnshire Council if it is joking.

Ask why, when it know there is an appeal by way of a case stated to the high court regarding a point of law relevant to these issues, it states irresponsibly;

"there are avenues available for you to pursue this",

Ask why it recommends instituting proceeding in the high court when it knows that its accomplice "Grimsby Magistrates' court" will pervert the course of justice by blocking the application, thus preventing the case coming before the Queen's Bench.

Ask whether it knows that the Clerk to the Justices for the Humber & South Yorkshire Local Justice Area failed to comply with the relevant Procedure Rules even after stating she would do so in Judicial review proceedings to mandate the Magistrates' court to comply.

And finally, for good measure, ask again whether the council is joking.

P.S. For more details there's a chronology of events annexed to this judicial complaint that has had no response.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/238416776/Judi...

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

re,

"If you believe there is a point in law on which this can be challenged then there are avenues available for you to pursue this."

Is North East Lincolnshire Council joking?

Why, when NELC knows there is an appeal by way of a case stated to the High Court regarding a point of law relevant to these issues, it makes the following irresponsible statement?

"there are avenues available for you to pursue this",

Why does NELC recommend instituting proceeding in the High Court when it knows that its accomplice "Grimsby Magistrates' court" will pervert the course of justice by blocking the application, thus preventing the case coming before the High Court?

Does NELC know that the Clerk to the Justices for the Humber & South Yorkshire Local Justice Area failed to comply with the relevant Procedure Rules even after stating she would do so in Judicial review proceedings to mandate the Magistrates' court to comply?

In case NELC didn't know about all the above, see the chronology of events annexed to this judicial complaint:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/238416776/Judi...

Just to reiterate my first question, is the council joking?

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Tom Bola left an annotation ()

North East Lincolnshire Council recharges £60 in costs to issue a summons (£70 up-until recent pressure was put on it). These are not the true costs that the council incur and are set this high purely to act as a penalty / deterrent.

Over 17,000 summonses were issued in 2013/14, and for an automated process the council raised £850,000. That's an average £70,000 for each of its 12 bulk applications it makes to the Magistrates' court annually.

The council fundamentally misunderstands why it is permitted to obtain liability orders and more importantly what purpose the provision for costs serves.

The fact that North East Lincolnshire Council sets the court costs artificially high to in fact really function as a 'fine', seems to suggest that it views summons costs, and their manipulation, as a mechanism for maximising income (as opposed to a means for recharging relevant incurred expenditure to the defendant). It appears misconceived in its view as to why powers are conferred on billing authorities to enable them to make complaint in the Magistrates’ court.

A liability order is simply the vehicle empowering a billing authority to make use of a range of enforcement measures to pursue monies owed. Costs therefore arise out of the authority’s legal obligation to obtain authorisation to engage in further recovery. The court grants permission by way of the order, for which a prescribed fee is charged in respect of each account listed on the council’s bulk complaint. This forms an element of the costs which are recharged to the debtor.

It would be exploiting the legal power if proceedings were turned into an opportunity to coerce payment. For example, it would be an abuse if the costs were set at a level considered sufficiently punitive that the threat of a summons acted as an incentive for people to meet their liability, rather than set to reflect the expenditure incurred.

In other words, the court should not be seen as a vehicle to perversely raise costs (for example to penalise the debtor). It is vitally important to remember that the court is engaged because the billing authority is statutorily obliged. To that end, costs are incurred as a consequence, rather than the purpose of the application.

Court proceedings should not, but appear to be entered into with the intention of exploiting the costs element for the purposes of both penalising the defendant and to act as a threat to encourage prompt payment.

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

For those local government public servants who benefit financially, usually at the cost of its less well-off citizens, a significant amount of time and effort has been invested aiming to bring those officers to book. For the avoidance of doubt, the reference is to the obscene remuneration paid ultimately for endorsing actions taken against those taxpayers in respect of targets which are set by the Department for Communities and Local Government for generating substantial fraudulent income from Council Tax Liability Order court costs.

Those officers will typically be in councils' legal services; the Monitoring, 151 and Chief Executive officers for example, who are obscenely remunerated from the proceeds of Council Tax.

Though there is, and never has been any doubt that the six figure salaries have been paid in exchange for endorsing fraudulent activity, it is welcomed that the High Court has provided Judgment which councils should take seriously and hopefully take necessary measures to have those who unlawfully benefit, removed from their public roles and put behind bars; but with none of the huge pay-offs associated with these positions attracting such opportunists.

The replies given in the various responses to this Freedom of Information request provide evidence that costs claimed for issuing the Summons do in fact include expenditure for making the application for Liability Order, expenditure that accounts for general administration of council tax and for costs incurred after the Liability Order has been obtained (to enforce the order).

It is held in the High Court Judgment (paragraphs 34 and 35) that the circumstances in which the council claims costs is unlawful and therefore see no reason why the officers benefiting most financially should not be accountable and pay with their jobs and freedom:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi...

"34. As a matter of straightforward construction of Regulation 34(7) that means that the Magistrates must be satisfied:

i) that the local authority has actually incurred those costs;

ii) that the costs in question were incurred in obtaining the liability order; and

iii) that it was reasonable for the local authority to incur them.

35. It is clear that there must be a sufficient link between the costs in question and the process of obtaining the liability order. It would obviously be impermissible (for example) to include in the costs claimed any element referable to the costs of executing the order after it was obtained, or to the overall administration of council tax in the area concerned."

The link below (paras 152-161) seems to reinforce an assertion that in general, it is councils' attitude that they consider entitlement to costs which include the unlawful elements, specified as impermissible above.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/262650108/Con...

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of North East Lincolnshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'No checks made before to issuing court summons'.

Re, "...it is not North East Lincolnshire Council’s duty under the Freedom of Information Act to comment on your interpretation of legislation or provide you with legal interpretation or advice."

I don't know where your obsession with legal advice comes from and why you refer to my communication as constituting an interpretation of legislation.

The only interpretation of the regulations I'm aware of is the one which North East Lincolnshire Council applies for its own convenience.

You may interpret a foreign language; – a Statutory Instrument however, although it might seem foreign at times has not been enacted at huge public expense with precise language just so it can be interpreted to suit the relevant public body's agenda. The regulations must simply be complied with and North East Lincolnshire Council in this case is not doing so.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

Yours faithfully,

Becky Saunder

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

 

An internal review was undertaken and a response to this provided on 8th
December 2014, for your information the reference number is 8816_1415. We
will not acknowledge or respond to any further correspondence on this
matter.

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request,
or  the decision of the internal review you can request an independent
review  by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe
House,  Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

show quoted sections

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

Your internal review response provided on 8 December 2014 contained no useful information relating to this FOI request. I therefore ask that a second, more meaningful attempt is made.

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Ms Saunder

Further to your email below.

An internal review has already been carried out by North East Lincolnshire Council.

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerley

Corporate Feedback Officer
North East Lincolnshire Council

Confidentiality Note. :The information in this message including any attachments may be confidential or privileged and is for the use of the named recipient only. If you are not the named or intended recipient you may not copy, distribute, or deliver this message to anyone or take any action in reliance on it. If you receive this message in error please contact the sender immediately and delete it from your system

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?

show quoted sections

Becky Saunder (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

The Information Commissioner's Office it is then.

Yours sincerely,

Becky Saunder

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