Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Quash the Liability Order. Suspend Enforcement. Disputing Liabilities. Claim Damages for Misuse of Enforcement Power.
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outlawipcc
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#1 Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 20 Sep 2015 19:07

Anyone have any views on whether the Local Authority has a leg to stand on in sending a summons because of an occasional instalment overpayment and making payments in more than one transaction?

The council states that "we have sent you a Summons because you have not paid your Council Tax in accordance with your bill"

I doubt the Council Tax regulations (though wouldn't know where) would provide for instalments to be paid in the exact amount and in one transaction. I would have thought so long as the account was (at least) up to date there would be no further statutory obligation on the taxpayer.

It seems though that the council – because not paying this way f*$ks up its automated system – is going to try coercing me with a financial penalty (summons costs) to pay the way they specify.

I would say that the local authority is acting ultra vires the statutory instrument by using the Magistrates court for non-payment of council tax because a taxpayer doesn't conform to its own payment preferences.

P.S. The name, address and the purpose of the letter (court appearance) was visible through the envelope window. Further to that, the envelope was not pushed through the letter box which is not usual for my postman suggesting it might have first got into someone else's hands and so knows my business. Breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 perhaps?

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#2 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Mark1960 » 20 Sep 2015 19:12

Have you ever paid a monthly instalment that is less than what was required? Thus leaving the account in arrears for that particular month?

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#3 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 20 Sep 2015 19:15

No! The account has fluctuated between being either up to date or £1 in credit.

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#4 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 20 Sep 2015 19:33

I know what's happened (and I've told NELC countless times) which is because some payments haven't exactly matched the instalment amounts the council tax software has allocated part of the total to a previous years disputed sum; an amount which is subject to a High Court appeal (case stated) still to be determined and for which the Council already has a Liability Order for its enforcement.

I'm wondering if the council is going to try and cash in on not paying the exact way specified on the bill. Besides this, it included the previous years disputed sum in the total which leads me to believe the summons has been sent out without anyone checking before hand. That would prove that the summons costs are fraudulent because they make up some of the claim.

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#5 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Mark1960 » 20 Sep 2015 19:50

How ironic that under normal circumstances, a payment is allocated to the current year, UNLESS specified otherwise.

Regardless of that, they had no right to divide payments, to the detriment of this current year

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#6 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 20 Sep 2015 20:15

Mark1960 wrote:How ironic that under normal circumstances, a payment is allocated to the current year, UNLESS specified otherwise.

Regardless of that, they had no right to divide payments, to the detriment of this current year
All aspects of the council tax allocation set-up is comprehensively covered in the link below, although NELC tried to make out the information was exempt from disclosure because it constituted a trade secret.

Allocation of payments to accounts relating to different years

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#7 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 21 Sep 2015 09:49

A trade secret? Now thats a new one.

What would the Parliamentary Ombudsman make of that?
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#8 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 21 Sep 2015 15:21

jasonDWB wrote:A trade secret? Now thats a new one.
That was NELC's futile way of dodging its obligations under the FOI Act. However, if it is a trade secret, then one or two councils have breached the trust by revealing how Northgate Information Solutions (UK) program its Council Tax processing system, so it supposedly allocates payments in accordance with the law.

If you looked at the link (previous post) Milton Keynes and Hyndburn Borough Councils have given the game away.

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#9 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 02 Oct 2015 09:27

Going to court short shortly. The council has had its chances as I've let them know on two previous occasions it happened; this time they can go through the embarrassment of being made to look negligent in front of the judge.

From: outlawipcc
To: grimsby magistrates court list
Sent: Thursday, October 01, 2015
Subject: Grounds of Appeal - Council Tax Liability Order Hearing


Dear court listing officer

Will you please acknowledge receipt of this email and ensure that the three attachments are seen by the Legal Advisor and JPs for a Council Tax Liability Order hearing on 2 October 2015.

I will be attending to appear before the bench. I request that on the court dismissing the complaint that the court, under the provision of section 64(1)(b) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, make an order as to costs as it thinks just and reasonable.

Your sincerely

outlawipcc
Attached documents:

Defendant's Grounds of Appeal
Case stated (draft)
R (Nicolson) v Tottenham Magistrates [2015] EWHC 1252 (Admin)

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#10 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 02 Oct 2015 09:35

That is a well prepared statement. I see you are possibly the first to use the Nicolson judgment to question the council's costs of applying for a LO on the grounds those costs have not been explained.

I don't know if you are aware, I was present at the Nicholson case at the HC, and his QC Helen Mountfield was a real diamond! I do admire Paul Nicolson for his tireless campaign for the low incomed. Have met him on several occasions. You also have to admire him for his charisma.

Do keep us informed how the magistrate comes down on this.
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#11 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 02 Oct 2015 09:43

I have a feeling that the council will try to claim that payments were not made in accordance with the demand notice (council tax bill) as I had paid extra amounts and in more than one transaction.

I also have a feeling that the court will agree with them. Of course that would be nonsense if the amount owed is never more than it should be at any given time.

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#12 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 02 Oct 2015 09:48

The crux of the Nicolson case is the council has to EXPLAIN how it paid costs in connection with an application for a LO. I don't think the regs provide for a council to award itself compensation for overpayments or making payment in multiple transactions.

If a magistrate were to agree a council being able to compensate itself, or convert money paid for its own use when the law did not require that money to be paid in the first place, then it will be interesting to see the magistrate's reasoning.
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#13 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Andy » 02 Oct 2015 10:06

Good luck.
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#14 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 02 Oct 2015 12:32

Andy wrote:Good luck.
Thanks!

All done (for now). Making some progress. I don't think the council were banking on a judge. Due to the grounds of appeal only being submitted late last night (and the council not receiving a copy), a full hearing is set for 30 October 2015. This will give the judge time to properly consider the evidence.

I stated that I was at no time in arrears and began explaining that the problem was down to a glitch in the council tax processing system.

I couldn't believe what the council rep said. He basically admitted I was never in arrears but, because I was a local campaigner (as he described me), I had engineered a hearing in the manner I'd paid instalments. That is as good as saying the court action was to punish me and we all know that that is unlawful.

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#15 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 02 Oct 2015 12:59

That is compelling evidence the council is clutching at straws and does not have a case.

If what you say is true, then by using the court system to inflict a punishment that is not prescribed in law, then it amounts to an abuse of process. The council could be liable for damages and may have to pay your costs of preparing your side of the case.
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#16 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Andy » 02 Oct 2015 13:02

Vexatious proceedings spring to mind.
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#17 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Andy » 02 Oct 2015 13:14

So basically because you paid your council tax in a way which they didn't like you were summonsed court, and it's your fault that they couldn't be bothered to maintain their systems.
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#18 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 02 Oct 2015 13:29

Andy wrote:So basically because you paid your council tax in a way which they didn't like you were summonsed court, and it's your fault that they couldn't be bothered to maintain their systems.
There are much bigger implications. If you look at the costs breakdown in an annex to the evidence, all the costs relate to dealing with customers, setting up payment plans (direct debit) and I suspect administration costs for appointing the case to bailiffs.

Summon's costs are applied to the account when the summons is issued and can not possibly include the expenditure set out in its calculation. They have proved over again that the process is entirely automated. They didn't even spot the sensitive information being visible through the envelope window on how ever many hundreds of summonses were posted. That is claiming money for work which has not been done. I think they also call that fraud.

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#19 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 02 Oct 2015 14:15

There is also the economies of scale when processing council tax accounts in bulk.
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#20 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 02 Oct 2015 14:30

Another cost is a massive amount they apply for 'bad debt'. Around 17,000 summonses are issued annually according to CIPFA stats. The number used to divide the gross expenditure by is 10,000. That tells you that the expenditure attributable to 7,000 summonsed accounts (which are waived etc.) is loaded on to the 10,000 defendants who are left having to pay them. That in my book is also fraud.

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#21 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 04 Oct 2015 08:30

There is some more work to do on this to make my defence watertight now knowing from which angle the council is going to defend its recovery action. The letter below is going to come in very handy.

I have a declaration, the (the original) safe in my hands sent from the Council's Legal Department dated 19.7.13 in connection with the judicial review claim for an order of mandamus requiring justices to state a case for an appeal to the High Court (an ongoing issue) which states that the Council had suspended the £60.00 costs (which I challenged by way of a case stated) until the outcome of the proceedings. As the Grimsby Magistrates have prevented (and are still doing so) the case coming before the Queens Bench, those cost are still suspended.

I doubt the clowncil have a clue how seriously the judge may consider the fact that its Council Tax processing system has allocated monies to a sum which is not payable and hasn't even bothered to make preliminary checks before unlawfully taking court action against me.
Strategic Director Governance & Transformation
Rob Walsh BA (Hons) Solicitor
Group Manager Legal & Democratic Services,
Tony Maione, Solicitor, LL.B. (Hons), LL.M., Solicitor


19th July 2013

Yourself v Grimsby Magistrates Court & NELC

I write further to the legal proceedings issued by yourself at Leeds High Court against Grimsby & Cleethorpes Magistrates Court, naming North East Lincolnshire Council as an interested party. The papers have been passed to me upon Mrs Conolly's departure from employment with the Local Authority.

The purpose of my writing to you is to inform you that the £60 court costs, which you dispute, will be suspended until the outcome of the proceedings. At the completion of those proceedings, dependent on the Court's decision, the fee will either be withdrawn from your account or will remain outstanding to the Local Authority.

A copy of this letter has been sent to the Leeds High Court for their information.

Yours sincerely

for Group Manager Legal & Democratic Services

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#22 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Andy » 04 Oct 2015 19:27

Should we move this to a secure area?
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#23 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Mark1960 » 04 Oct 2015 19:44

I'd say no.

Outlaws battles with NELC have been well documented for several years now. He's even had the honour of a full scale "Sheila slating" for wasting taxpayers money.

I suspect that if it needed to go private, Outlaw would have requested so.

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#24 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Andy » 04 Oct 2015 19:49

Okie Dokie
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#25 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 07 Oct 2015 12:21

Just reported the incident to the police on the ActionFraud website.

The following is what I'd liked to have submitted but the website is useless and allows you only 2,000 characters (not that they'll bother investigating anyway).

INTRODUCTION

North East Lincolnshire Council (the “Council”) served a Council Tax summons on myself (the “Defendant”) on 19 September 2015 at the address of the Defendant after making complaint to the magistrates’ court for non-payment of Council Tax on 15 September 2015.

BACKGROUND

The Defendant has never been in arrears in respect of his 2015/16 Council Tax liability. However, the Council stated on the first served notice that the Defendant’s account was overdue by £59.00, when in fact because of an overpayment, the account was in credit by £1.00.

The Council continued serving notices on the Defendant for non-payment when his account was either up-to date or in credit which resulted in a summons being served on him to appear before magistrates sitting at the Grimsby Magistrates’ court on 2 October 2015 to answer the said complaint.

It was stated on the summons that the Defendant had not paid the sum(s) set out below.

COUNCIL TAX – £424.00
SUMMONS COSTS – £60.00
TOTAL AMOUNT PAYABLE – £484.00

Notwithstanding that the Council were unlawfully demanding the remaining 2015/16 liability, the total amount payable on the summons was £484, an amount £120 in excess of the Council Tax outstanding. The remaining sum outstanding was at the time of the summons, £364.00. Half of the sum (£60.00) accounted for the unlawfully applied summons costs, and the remaining sum is with almost all certainty the cause of the Council Tax processing system misallocating payments to an account from another tax period, thus increasing the current year’s liability by an equal amount.

The Defendant attended the court hearing where he stated that his account was never in arrears and the Council had no justification for taking recovery action in the Magistrates court /adding costs. The Defendant in any event submitted written evidence that the account was never in arrears and challenged the £60.00 standard costs as he alleged they are in excess of the costs incurred by the Council thus fraudulently claimed.

The Council’s Enforcement Manager then agreed that payments were up to date, but the Defendant had been summonsed to court for non-payment because payments had not been made in accordance with his bill. He went on to say that the Defendant had engineered a hearing in the manner he’d paid instalments, which is strongly implying that the court was exploited in order to punish the Defendant by applying the costs. It is well established that costs should be awarded as compensation, not as punishment. In R v Highgate Justices ex parte Petrou [1954] 1 ALL ER 406 it was held that costs should not exceed the proper costs incurred and should not be a penalty.

The £60.00 costs relating to an account from another tax period, was subject to court proceedings in a High Court appeal thus they were suspended until the outcome of the proceedings. Those costs are included in the present demand and the existence of those costs on the Defendant’s account is the reason for the misallocated payments. The letter (19 July 2013) below sent by the Council’s Legal Department in connection with a judicial review claim is evidence:

Yourself v Grimsby Magistrates Court & NELC

I write further to the legal proceedings issued by yourself at Leeds High Court against Grimsby & Cleethorpes Magistrates Court, naming North East Lincolnshire Council as an interested party. The papers have been passed to me upon Mrs Conolly's departure from employment with the Local Authority.

The purpose of my writing to you is to inform you that the £60 court costs, which you dispute, will be suspended until the outcome of the proceedings. At the completion of those proceedings, dependent on the Court's decision, the fee will either be withdrawn from your account or will remain outstanding to the Local Authority.

A copy of this letter has been sent to the Leeds High Court for their information.

Yours sincerely

for Group Manager Legal & Democratic Services

The disputed £60.00 court costs from 2012/13 are still suspended because the case has never been determined by the High Court. Moreover, this is the third time these costs (which are suspended) have been the cause of misallocated payments and unlawful recovery action being taken by the Council.

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#26 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 07 Oct 2015 18:12

I'm not sure if Action Fraud will look at it unless a company of person is the fraudster. You might be better to do a section 1 complaint and lay it before the court. The Clerk will say whether there is a case to answer.
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#27 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 08 Oct 2015 08:39

jasonDWB wrote:I'm not sure if Action Fraud will look at it unless a company of person is the fraudster. You might be better to do a section 1 complaint and lay it before the court. The Clerk will say whether there is a case to answer.
Action Fraud seems to be a complete joke. It's the government's attempt to automate the detection of crime and at the same time saving money. It's effectively policing by computer database, as investigations are only triggered by the processing system being able to match certain key words and phrases from submitted reports.

However, that does tell you something, if enough people who are scammed this way by their local authorities, who do submit reports through Action Fraud, hopefully the system will find enough key words and phases to trigger the required police action.

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#28 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 08 Oct 2015 10:19

The test of whether a fraud will be investigated is preparing the complaint as a section 1 question. The clerk will say whether the accused has a case to answer.
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#29 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Hopeless » 08 Oct 2015 20:48

Not just Action Fraud. The whole bailiff space is a joke.

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#30 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 09 Oct 2015 10:12

Mark1960 wrote:How ironic that under normal circumstances, a payment is allocated to the current year, UNLESS specified otherwise.
It depends on which Council Tax software package the local authority uses that determines whether payments are allocated to the current year’s outstanding debt or to the arrears from previous year's account. No wonder NELC claimed that the information regarding how payments are allocated against a person's council tax account was exempt from disclosure.

If you compare two software packages for example,

i) Northgate

ii) Capita Academy

Northgate

Conveniently there is some useful information in a report by Milton Keynes Council that uses the 'Northgate' Council Tax software package (the same software package as North East Lincolnshire Council). The paragraph of most significance to this matter is 3.3.2 (see below):
3.3.2 The council tax system has built in allocation rules to ensure that the law with respect to specified payments is met. For instance, if a customer has a payment plan for any year of debt and the payment they make matches the planned instalment then the money will be allocated to that year (this is known as “hard” allocation on the council tax system). If the system is unable to “hard allocate” then it will instead “soft” allocate and the debt will be used against the oldest debt unless manually adjusted.
Another source which supports how the Northgate system allocates payments to the detriment of the taxpayer is Cheshire East Council. It also uses the same software package for the provision of Council Tax as NELC. It states the following on its website:
Council Tax is a yearly charge normally paid in ten monthly instalments, starting in April. Your bill must be paid by the 1st of each month unless you choose to pay by Direct Debit. Your bill shows your payment dates and amounts. If you have previous year’s arrears on your account it is particularly important that you pay the exact amount of the instalment otherwise the payment will be allocated to your arrears.
You could say that the way in which the 'Northgate' system is programmed is so the council can justify allocating payments to ensure the maximum number of taxpayers default on their council tax payments and get hit with recovery costs.


Capita Academy

There is also some useful information in a Council Tax recovery guide relating to Hyndburn borough Council that uses the 'Academy' Council Tax software package. The paragraph of most significance to this matter is as follows:
When any payment is received by the Council it will, unless otherwise specified by the Taxpayer, reduce the balance outstanding for the current year’s outstanding Council Tax or NNDR. Once payment in full has been made for the current financial year any payments subsequently received will go towards reducing any outstanding arrears from previous financial years.
You could say that the way in which the 'Academy' system is programmed is so the minimum number of taxpayers default on their council tax payments as a consequence of automating Council Ta administration.

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#31 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 09 Oct 2015 15:43

There are a number of council aware of this, and I expect they are asking their respective IT departments to remedy it by setting an allowance to be in arrears before an enforcement procedure is initiated. For example, it's pointless getting a LO or instructing a bailiff when the taxpayer is a few pounds short. It will in all probability result in a formal complaint, and handling that complaint absorbs town hall money.

In your case, a few pounds over is clearly a software error and the initiation oif an enforcement procedure was not human supervised, or there was no common-sense intervention allowed.
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#32 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by Hopeless » 09 Oct 2015 17:15

Councils - of course no common sense. It's one big racket. We have to simply abide by the crooked system.

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#33 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 16 Oct 2015 20:25

An update.

The Council has served on myself and the court its representations for the liability order hearing on 30 October 2015.

It is relying as its defence that the Northgate council tax processing system allocates payments in accordance with the law and therefore claiming (even though underhand) that its application for a liability order is lawful.

Interestingly the Council is claiming that the £60.00 costs from 2012/13, pending the High Court's decision (which are suspended) had that suspension lifted as of 20th November 2013 because I had confirmed withdrawal of my application for Judicial review of the costs.

I don't believe the Council are ignorant of the fact that the Judicial review was not in the matter of costs but was in fact a claim for a mandatory order for the Magistrates' court to state a case in an appeal 'by way of a case stated' to the High Court.

This in my opinion is grasping at straws because the Council Tax Bill refers to that sum, as it has on each Bill since the dispute, as being 'subject to court proceedings'.

The following paragraphs of relevance to this are in the Council's representations:
7. At this juncture it is important to point out that the defendant had a further amount of £60.00 outstanding in regards costs relating to a Liability order application granted on the 2nd November 2012.

......

68. The Council is aware that the defendant has taken matters further with regards to disputing the £60.00 costs incurred from November 2012.

69. Correspondence received from the defendant as of 20th November 2013 stated that he had withdrawn his application for the Judicial review of the costs (NELC12)

70. Given this the Council no longer held action in attempting to recover the outstanding amount.

71. Thus in October 2014 when the defendant made a non-specific payment the amount was allocated to his costs until the defendant contacted the Council and made his election clear.
It is my opinion that the Council is attempting to strengthen its case by using below the belt tactics by strategically picking out posts on this and another forum which in some cases slate the Magistrates' court.
64. It is also noticeable that on the 16th October 2014 the defendant sent an email to the Council with regards to expressing his election on a payment made to an earlier Bill which due to not paying the specific amount was allocated to the earlier amount outstanding. The email can be seen on as (NELC9).

65. On that occasion the amount was allocated on the defendant's request.

66. This is also shown by the extract from the 'Bailiff Help' forum, 20th April 2013 to 21st May 2013,(NELC10) clearly showing an awareness of the need to make an election of payment .

67. Further evidenced by 'Legalbeagle' post on 2nd October 2015 (NELC11). This shows that the defendant is well aware of how the Northgate system works and that he is aware that he needs to make his election if the payment made is not specifically as set out in the statutory instalment scheme.

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#34 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by jasonDWB » 16 Oct 2015 20:52

Not sure why a legal professional felt the need to make references to internet forums. It doesn't help them make a case.

I'm rather puzzled why the blame resides with their IT contractor. That is a matter to be solved between the contacting parties. That's like Peter Felton blaming OneStep for Newlyn charging multiple £235 -Enforcement stage fees for simultaneous execution.
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#35 Re: Summonsed for Council Tax account being in credit

Post by outlawipcc » 16 Oct 2015 21:12

jasonDWB wrote:Not sure why a legal professional felt the need to make references to internet forums. It doesn't help them make a case....
The next step is to raise concerns about the waste of resources, i.e. having NELC officers waste their time monitoring the internet. Do they not have more important things to do, and if not their numbers need reducing to help meet government cuts.
jasonDWB wrote:I'm rather puzzled why the blame resides with their IT contractor. That is a matter to be solved between the contacting parties. That's like Peter Felton blaming OneStep for Newlyn charging multiple £235 -Enforcement stage fees for simultaneous execution.
Whatever the rules are regarding payment allocation; at the point when recovery officers made checks on the account (summons stage) it should have been obvious that it had no reasonable grounds to apply for a liability order. Not using its discretion amounts to using the court to inflict a penalty.

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