£0.15 million discrepancy in Council Tax Magistrates' court costs

Alf Robinson made this Freedom of Information request to North East Lincolnshire Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

CIPFA revenue statistics show that North East Lincolnshire Council raised £554,000 in court costs for council tax cases in 2012/13.

The same source shows that 9,984 summonses were issued for the same tax year having a value of £698,880, a discrepancy of £144,880 (equivalent to 2,070 summonsed accounts)

Please provide the information that NELC holds which accounts for an equivalent 21% of summonsed accounts that did not have the standard sum (£70) applied.

Note: The information will not have regard for uncollected costs in that year, as these are (un)accounted for elsewhere (Total court cost collected in 2012/13)

Yours faithfully,

Alf Robinson

Alf Robinson left an annotation ()

Of interest here is that a non-refundable fee of £3 is payable to H.M. Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) for each application to the Magistrates' court.

It appears that the 2,070 summonsed accounts, which relate to £6,210 court fees payable to HMCTS, have not been charged to the defendants.

That would therefore mean that Council Taxpayer's have funded a £6k transfer to another government department which is a very nifty way of having us unwittingly pay for our Magistrates' courts.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for information, which has been
allocated the reference number 7619/1415

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

 

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George Cant left an annotation ()

Bingo

Thank you for asking this request, its very helpfull to me, i suspect i know the answer to this.....very very interesting

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

 

Thank you for your information request 7619_1415

 

Under Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I wish to confirm
that North East Lincolnshire Council holds the information you asked for.

 

We have estimated, that the time required for the activities needed to
locate, retrieve and extract the information you have requested would
exceed the appropriate limit of £450 (18 hours).

 

To identify which accounts did not have the standard sum (£70) applied,
and the reasons for this would require all the 9,984 accounts were a
summons was issued to be reviewed.

 

This would have to be done manually and we estimate that it would take
approximately 3 minutes to review each account, equating to approximately
500 hours or a cost of £ based on an the hourly rate of £25 per hour.

 

Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a public
authority is not obliged to comply with a request where the estimated cost
of doing so would exceed the appropriate amount. The Council’s Charging
Policy for information requests, which clearly sets out our
responsibilities and how the charging policy is applied, is available on
our website at
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co...

 

As a Council we are committed to the Freedom of Information Act and are
happy to support where ever possible any request for information we
receive. Based on the specific nature of your request it is not possible
to identify any advice that could be given to reduce the scope of your
request and allow it to be answered without exceeding the appropriate
limit.

 

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

 

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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 '£0.15 million discrepancy in Council Tax Magistrates' court costs'.

I have seen NELC's calculation of how it comes by the figure it charges residents for issuing a summons.

Over half a million pounds is budgeted for in a category, "Control & Monitoring". NELC must therefore be controlling and monitoring accounts that are subject to payment arrangements (ones most likely to have had costs waived).

I therefore feel that the information would be held on the council's database and disclosed without the need to spend the equivalent of £12.5k to manually review the accounts. Otherwise what's all the £0.5M all about?

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

Yours faithfully,

Alf Robinson

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for an Internal Review of Freedom
of Information Request 7619/1415

 

Your request for an 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

 

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George Cant left an annotation ()

the following is a false stament by them

"This would have to be done manually and we estimate that it would take approximately 3 minutes to review each account, equating to approximately 500 hours or a cost of £ based on an the hourly rate of £25 per hour."

This is simply wrong. I understand how these records are stored and they systems they are on.

This request could have been answered simply by doing an SQL equivalent search through the records... The filed holders have markers for both the inclusion and removal of fees. I KNOW THAT FOR AN ABSOLUTE FACT

I suspect they will fight not to answer this becuase i think it relates into some reseach i am doing into accounting around the CT collection systems

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information request reference
number 7619_1415, concerning Council Tax magistrate’s court costs.

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 reasons why any information you had
asked for could not be supplied to you 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 that you consider this information should be easily accessible and
recorded in a way which would enable a response to be provided. The
administration and monitoring of accounts involves many factors and where
there is a business need to record specific information in an easily
reportable way this is done. For example, on North East Lincolnshire
Council’s website you will see that a range of information is published on
the administration of accounts. The purpose of this publication is to
ensure that, where possible, information that is easily accessible and
reportable is shared to support transparency of services. The information
you have requested is not possible to extract without the investment of
time as detailed in the original response provided to you. I therefore
uphold the application of section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act.

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

Ian Hollingsworth

Information Governance and Complaints

 

From: PPD - FOI
Sent: 05 June 2014 17:11
To: '[FOI #214414 email]'
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request 7619_1415

 

Dear Mr Robinson

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for an Internal Review of Freedom
of Information Request 7619/1415

 

Your request for an 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

 

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Dear PPD - FOI,

It would be irresponsible if I did not highlight where there appears an opportunity for someone wishing to challenge NELC on a point of law in matters related to this FoI request.

One surrounds the £144,880 sum which is the difference between the costs raised in 2012/13 and the value of the 9,984 summonses issued (£70) in the same tax year. This sum has not been paid by the 2,070 householders summonsed to which it relates so must have been added (presumably as bargaining power), either to the costs payable by householders receiving summonses who actually paid them or the Council Taxpayer in general, or put another way, theft.

The other surrounds specifically the £3 non-refundable fee which is payable to HMCTS for each application to the Magistrates' court for a summons.

For the tax year in question, 2,070 summonsed accounts, which relate to £6,210 court fees payable to HMCTS, have not been charged to the defendants. This sum (for 2012/13) has also been borne by either householders receiving summonses who actually paid them or the Council Taxpayer in general. The added twist here though is that this sum paid in court fees means that Council Taxpayers have funded more than a £6k transfer to another government department that they unwittingly thought was going to pay for Council services.

Yours sincerely,

Alf Robinson

Dear PPD - FOI,

There has been no response to the issues raised in my email (16 June 2014) surrounding areas of potentially unlawful practices by NELC and consequently susceptible to legal challenge.

Does this signal that NELC considers that it is acting within the law?

Yours sincerely,

Alf Robinson

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

Thank you for your further email concerning the above freedom of information request.

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. In this instance I am satisfied that your request falls outside of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act as it is not a request for recorded information.

I understand that an internal review has been undertaken, if you remain unhappy with the decision or the handling of your request please contact the Information Commissioners office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Adele Beharrell
Feedback Officer
North East Lincolnshire Council

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?

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Dear PPD - FOI,

If you are certain that this request falls outside of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act will you give your assurance that details of the issues raised are forwarded to the appropriate body which I suggest will be the Auditor, local police fraud squad or perhaps the serious fraud office.

Yours sincerely,

Alf Robinson

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Robinson

Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to information request reference 7619_1415. I can confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council will be taking no further action, you are however within your rights to raise any issues you like with the relevant organisations.

As you are aware an internal review has been undertaken, if you remain unhappy with the decision or the handling of your request please contact the Information Commissioners office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Ian Hollingsworth

Information Governance and Complaints

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Dear PPD - FOI,

I see the 2013/14 discrepancy has far exceeded last years.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

"£0.7 million discrepancy in Council Tax Magistrates' court costs (2013/14)"

Yours sincerely,

Alf Robinson