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Freedom of Information requests: Local authorities and Taking Control of Goods (Fees) 2014

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The new bailiff regulations came into effect on 6th April and bailiff fees are strictly controlled and comprise of a Compliance Fee of £75 which is charged when the debt is passed by the creditor. If payment is not made or a payment agreement entered into during the ‘compliance stage’ a bailiff may attend the debtors premises and an Enforcement Fee of £235 is chargeable.

 

Significantly, the new regulations provide that from any payment made (whether to the bailiff, the magistrate court or the local authority) the Compliance Fee of £75 is deducted first with the balance being split on a ‘pro rata’ basis between the debt to the creditor and bailiff fees.

 

This novel approach means that unless the amount due (including bailiff fees) is paid in full, bailiff enforcement may continue and it is this point alone that has caused extreme difficulty to some ‘debt avoidance’ websites with associations to the Freeman on the Land (FmoTL) movement and 9 months after the regulations came into effect it is astonishing that debtors are continuing to be advised by such websites to avoid paying bailiff fees by paying the amount of the Liability Order or court fine only (minus bailiff fees).

 

Despite the regulations clearly outlining how payments are to be calculated, in May/June an individual made numerous Freedom of Information requests to Local Authorities seeking clarification as to how they deal with direct payments made to them after accounts have been passed to bailiffs. Since that time many more FOI requests have been made on the same subject and the up to date position is that approx a quarter of all local authorities have received requests on the same subject.

 

What has been the outcome of these Freedom of Information request?

 

Typically, in the very early stages (May and June) most responses made clear that the local authorities had very little idea as to how the new regulations would work in practice but, since August/September the vast majority of responses confirm that they apportion the payment as outlined in the legislation and that they advise the bailiff company accordingly (or credit the bailiff company) with the payment.

 

PS: It is likely that there are far more FOI requests than outlined here. I have only referred to those that are available to view publicly on the FOI website: What do They Know.

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This thread is important as yet again, I read a response from a poster on the LB forum this morning where he is advising the debtor to pay the council direct (minus bailiff fees) on the basis that most councils are 'supposedly' not deducting the Compliance Fee of £75 or apportioning the balance on a pro rata basis.

 

It is understood that over a quarter of all local authorities have either received or or dealing with these same enquiries. I am only aware personally of ones that appear on the What do they Know website. They are all by one individual and so far 60 Freedom of Information requests have made to request the following:

 

Dear xxx

 

Since the Taking Control of Goods (fees) Regulations 2014 came into
force, has xxx Council handed any monies which a
debtor has paid directly to the authority in respect of his or her
council tax liability to its enforcement agent?



 

If so, how much and in how many cases?



 

Yours faithfully,

 

Below are extracts from some of the recent responses.

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Birmingham City Council: 22nd Janaury 2015

 

Payments made towards a debt that has been referred to an enforcement
agent since 6 April 2014 must be apportioned between the debt and the
agent’s fees in accordance with the rules set out in The Taking Control of
Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.

 

The rules apply equally whether payment is made to the council or to the enforcement agent.

 

Where payment is made direct to the council and an amount is required under the regulations to be set towards the fees, the appropriate amount is remitted to the
 enforcement agent.

 

 

 

Mid Sussex District Council: 23rd December

 

Thank you for your request for information. 



 

Since the Regulations mentioned came into force we have paid a total of £1,195.05 to our enforcement agents which is for 24 cases.

 

 

 

Leeds City Council: 12th January

 

I can confirm that where payment is made direct to the Council including an element of bailiff costs, then these would be returned by the authority to the bailiff company.

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North East Lincolnshire Council

 

In all cases where we receive a direct payment and the case is with an
enforcement agent we would advise the agent, and enforcement would
continue against any remaining* balance of Council Tax and fees.

 

 

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council: 9th January 2015

 

Paid 
£1074.31 to the enforcement company in respect of 8 cases.

 

 

Newham Borough Council: 1st Janaury 2015

 

Since the Taking Control of Goods(fees) Regulations 2014 came into force, has Newham Borough Council handed any monies which a debtor has paid directly to the authority in respect of his or her council tax liability to its enforcement agent?

 

If so, how much and in how many cases?

 

Response

 

There have been 35 accounts with a value of £4,077.56.

 

 

Stoke on Trent City Council: 7th January 2015

 

Since the Taking Control of Goods (fees) Regulations 2014 came into force,
has Stoke on Trent City Council handed any monies which a debtor has paid
directly to the authority in respect of his or her council tax liability
to its enforcement agent?
 


 

Response:

 

Yes.
 
If so, how much and in how many cases?



 

Response:


 

27 cases at a total value of £2,511.71. These figures relate to the
period 01/04/14 to the date of your request.

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Harrow Council: 6th January 2015

 


“We will not be reviewing our policy on this matter as legislation clearly
stipulates that bailiff fees may be raised and collected once enforcement
agents are employed.

 

Once a case is with the bailiffs, it is the
bailiffs' responsibility to collect all outstanding council tax (as per
the liability order) plus appropriate applicable fees on behalf of the
authority.

 

Contractually the Council then passes on the relevant bailiff
fees back to the bailiffs as payment for work carried out. This is done
proportionately to the amounts collected as set out in the legislation”.

 

 

Manchester City Council: 19th December 2014

 

Payments made towards a debt that has been referred to an enforcement
agent since 6 April 2014 must be apportioned between the debt and the
agent’s fees in accordance with the rules set out in The Taking Control of
Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.

 

The rules apply equally whether payment is
made to the council or to the enforcement agent.



 

Where payment is made direct to the council and an amount is required
under the regulations to be set towards the fees, the appropriate amount
is remitted to the enforcement agent.

 

Manchester
City Council has paid £16,599.64 in 336 cases.

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It is not understood why so many of these same requests are being made to local authorities. Today a response was made public on the same website (What do they Know) from East Riding of Yorkshire (see below) and the reply from the person making the Freedom of Information request is very disturbing indeed.

 

 

East Riding of Yorkshire: 22nd January 2015

 

Regarding the clarification sought, Officers have confirmed that payments
have been forwarded where debts have been placed with enforcement agencies for collection or the debtor has indicated that the payment is in respect of a debt which has been placed with an enforcement agency for collection.

 

Reply (from individual making the FOI request

 

Is East Riding of Yorkshire Council trying to avoid saying that it
aids and abets its bailiff contractor defraud the taxpayer by
diverting to it payments made by residents to the authority in
respect of council tax liability.

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Reigate & Banstead – ref 5283/2014

If we receive any direct payment from a debtor whose account is with an Enforcement Agent then we advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment that has been made, we do not deduct any fees.

 

 

 

Slough – ref 6877

 

 

If, however, a payment is made directly to the Council without payment of the Enforcement Agent fees, the Council will notify the Enforcement Agent of the receipt of the direct payment and the revised balance with the Council. The Enforcement Agent will then arrange for payment of any remaining balance and their fees directly with the customer.

 

 

 

 

E Northants – ref 12254

 

 

If it is obvious that the payment to the council includes an amount to cover statutory fees, then the council will pass these to the Enforcement Agency.

 

 

 

 

Watford – no reference, from Colin South Colin.South@watford.gov.uk

 

 

In this scenario we would advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment made direct to the council. The balance with the council will be nil. The Enforcement Agent would pursue the debtor for their fee's, if any.

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Reigate & Banstead – ref 5283/2014

If we receive any direct payment from a debtor whose account is with an Enforcement Agent then we advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment that has been made, we do not deduct any fees.

 

 

Slough – ref 6877

 

 

If, however, a payment is made directly to the Council without payment of the Enforcement Agent fees, the Council will notify the Enforcement Agent of the receipt of the direct payment and the revised balance with the Council. The Enforcement Agent will then arrange for payment of any remaining balance and their fees directly with the customer.

 

 

 

 

E Northants – ref 12254

 

 

If it is obvious that the payment to the council includes an amount to cover statutory fees, then the council will pass these to the Enforcement Agency.

 

 

 

 

Watford – no reference, from Colin South Colin.South@watford.gov.uk

 

 

In this scenario we would advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment made direct to the council. The balance with the council will be nil. The Enforcement Agent would pursue the debtor for their fee's, if any.

 

Can you please provide a copy of the request made to each local authority and a link to where the full reply can be viewed. The ones above are all available to view on a public forum.

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Can you please provide a copy of the request made to each local authority and a link to where the full reply can be viewed.

 

All asked the same question:

I have seen information that should a liability order be made against a debtor and the account has been passed to an Enforcement Agent; and should the debtor then pay the amount stated on the Liability Order only (not EA fees) direct to the council, whether in person or online, then your council will deduct from this payment any EA fees incurred to that point and pass them on to the EA, thus leaving the account still in arrears. Please can you direct me to the relevant legislation that compels your council to do this, specifying the exact passage of legislation that you follow?

Reference numbers have been provided to confirm the replies.

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Dudley Met Borough Council

 

Council Tax Collection and Recovery Policy

 

.....

 

2.4.10 If a debt has been passed to an enforcement agent and you make payment directly to the Council, without including the enforcement agent fees, then the enforcement agent will continue the enforcement process for the fees incurred.

 

2.4.11 If the enforcement agent cannot identify sufficient goods to clear the debt, or cannot gain lawful entry to the property, they send a certificate to the Council to confirm that no, or insufficient goods could be found. One of the other recovery options detailed in this policy will then be considered by the Council.

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Reference numbers have been provided to confirm the replies.

 

It is far from helpful to expect others to write to each local authority for a full reply. As least the ones that feature on What do they Know are to be relied upon.

 

Given the further ones that you have highlighted it is clear that many more local authorities are tackling these same silly questions on a frequent basis. I am simply lost for words and can now understand why my council tax bill is having to rise !!!!

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Leeds City Council: 12th January

 

I can confirm that where payment is made direct to the Council including an element of bailiff costs, then these would be returned by the authority to the bailiff company.

 

Leeds City Council – 12 January

 

"
In my original response I explained that whilst legislation (The Taking Control of Goods (fees) Regulations 2014) does cover the application of proceeds where payment is less than the full amount outstanding, we have agreed procedures with our enforcement agents that any funds are only transferred when the full amount has been collected. Therefore in response to your supplementary question I would expect the vast majority of any payments to comply with paragraph (a) and would expect a much smaller proportion to fall within paragraph (b).

 

In all cases where we receive a direct payment and the case is with an enforcement agent we would advise the agent, and enforcement would continue against any remaining balance of Council Tax and fees
.

 

a) The payment(s) fully settled the debt including the bailiff's fees;

 

b) The debtor clearly indicated that the payment is for the bailiff.

 

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I am lost for words. I truly am. Looking at the link provided the person making all of these Freedom of Information requests has been writing to Leeds City Council on this same subject for 8 months. What on earth is somebody trying to achieve here !!!

 

All of the people making these silly FOI requests only have themselves to blame if amendments are made to the legislation and now I can more fully understand the reason why so many local authorities are now lobbying the government to clarify the position about Attachments of Earnings.

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I was very honored way back in 2006 to be invited to become a member of the Enforcement Law Reform Group (now renamed the Enforcement Law Review Group) and attended many meetings regarding new bailiff regulations over the years. I also provided a very lengthly and detailed reply to the Consultation Paper on Bailiff Reform and I know that my contribution was very well received.

 

I am passionate about 'vulnerable' debtors and I can assure anyone reading this post that the new regulations provide far better protection for 'vulnerable' groups than had been planned. A little known fact is that the government wanted bailiffs to have the right to use force against an individual. Domestic pets were another planned target and one other proposal was for bailiffs to 'replace' household items with cheaper alternatives.

 

The purpose of the 'pro rata' distribution is made very clear indeed in the following link. This is the Explanatory Memorandum to the Taking Control of Goods 2014 prepared by the Ministry of Justice and laid before Parliament. This document states under paragraph 8.3 that without the Compliance Fee being deducted at source and the balance being divided on a pro rata basis enforcement agent may be encouraged to act in an aggressive manner in order to recoup the entire debt.

 

Debt avoidance campaigners may wish to reflect on this.

 

 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/1/pdfs/uksiem_20140001_en.pdf

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I was very honored way back in 2006 to be invited to become a member of the Enforcement Law Reform Group (now renamed the Enforcement Law Review Group) and attended many meetings regarding new bailiff regulations over the years. I also provided a very lengthly and detailed reply to the Consultation Paper on Bailiff Reform and I know that my contribution was very well received.

 

I am passionate about 'vulnerable' debtors and I can assure anyone reading this post that the new regulations provide far better protection for 'vulnerable' groups than had been planned. A little known fact is that the government wanted bailiffs to have the right to use force against an individual. Domestic pets were another planned target and one other proposal was for bailiffs to 'replace' household items with cheaper alternatives.

 

The purpose of the 'pro rata' distribution is made very clear indeed in the following link. This is the Explanatory Memorandum to the Taking Control of Goods 2014 prepared by the Ministry of Justice and laid before Parliament. This document states under paragraph 8.3 that without the Compliance Fee being deducted at source and the balance being divided on a pro rata basis enforcement agent may be encouraged to act in an aggressive manner in order to recoup the entire debt.

 

Debt avoidance campaigners may wish to reflect on this.

 

 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/1/pdfs/uksiem_20140001_en.pdf

 

I will update this thread with FOI replies that feature on the What do they Know website as and when they are posted.

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Reigate & Banstead – ref 5283/2014

If we receive any direct payment from a debtor whose account is with an Enforcement Agent then we advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment that has been made, we do not deduct any fees.

 

 

 

Slough – ref 6877

 

 

If, however, a payment is made directly to the Council without payment of the Enforcement Agent fees, the Council will notify the Enforcement Agent of the receipt of the direct payment and the revised balance with the Council. The Enforcement Agent will then arrange for payment of any remaining balance and their fees directly with the customer.

 

 

 

 

E Northants – ref 12254

 

 

If it is obvious that the payment to the council includes an amount to cover statutory fees, then the council will pass these to the Enforcement Agency.

 

 

 

 

Watford – no reference, from Colin South Colin.South@watford.gov.uk

 

 

In this scenario we would advise the Enforcement Agent of the payment made direct to the council. The balance with the council will be nil. The Enforcement Agent would pursue the debtor for their fee's, if any.

 

I know I am a bit thick but don't all these say exactly the same thing, that the fees are still due ?


DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES TO COLD CALLERS PROMISING TO WRITE OFF YOUR DEBTS

DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES FOR COSTLY TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS WITH SO CALLED "EXPERTS" THEY INVARIABLY ARE NOTHING OF THE SORT

BEWARE OF QUICK FIX DEBT SOLUTIONS, IF IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT INVARIABLY IS

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Seems to me to be an exercise in futility to keep asking the same question over and over again hoping that eventualy you will get the answer you want.


DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES TO COLD CALLERS PROMISING TO WRITE OFF YOUR DEBTS

DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES FOR COSTLY TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS WITH SO CALLED "EXPERTS" THEY INVARIABLY ARE NOTHING OF THE SORT

BEWARE OF QUICK FIX DEBT SOLUTIONS, IF IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT INVARIABLY IS

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I know I am a bit thick but don't all these say exactly the same thing, that the fees are still due ?

 

It's not asking about any fees due, just whether the council passes on the fees from direct payments.

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It's not asking about any fees due, just whether the council passes on the fees from direct payments.

 

Why should anyone care ?

I can understand if the debtor can get out of paying the fees but....


DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES TO COLD CALLERS PROMISING TO WRITE OFF YOUR DEBTS

DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES FOR COSTLY TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS WITH SO CALLED "EXPERTS" THEY INVARIABLY ARE NOTHING OF THE SORT

BEWARE OF QUICK FIX DEBT SOLUTIONS, IF IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT INVARIABLY IS

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Why should anyone care ?

I can understand if the debtor can get out of paying the fees but....

 

They can if they hold out until the EA returns the account.

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Why do I have a strange feeling that 'taurusgemini' is 'Mark 1960'. I really hope that I am wrong.

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Hastings https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/taking_control_of_goods_fees_reg_59#incoming-599661

 

 

All monies paid to Hastings Borough Council direct from customers in respect of Liability Orders is kept by Hastings Borough Council and not passed to an Enforcement Agent.

 

There have been no cases where a customer has paid the Authority any Enforcement fees that were due to be paid to our Enforcement Agents and then we have passed those fees on.

 

 

 

 

Nottingham https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/242345/response/595064/attach/html/3/4774%20Final%20Response.pdf.html

 

 

Since the Taking Control of Goods (fees) Regulations 2014 were introduced monies

paid to the Council are handed onto a bailiff in the following circumstances:

 

a) The payment fully settles the debt with the bailiff including their fees. In this case thevalue of the fees is passed to the bailiff;

b) The debtor clearly indicates that the payment is for the bailiff.

 

 

 

Sheffield https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/taking_control_of_goods_fees_reg_52#incoming-594025

 

 

Since the Taking Control of Goods (fees) Regulations 2014 came into force,

has Sheffield City Council handed any monies which a debtor has paid

directly to the authority in respect of his or her council tax liability

to its enforcement agent?

 

Answer = No

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Cheshire West https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/taking_control_of_goods_fees_reg_51#outgoing-409805

 

 

Dear FOI West,

 

Thank you, however your response doesn't confirm that payments are 'ONLY' made in one or the other of the following circumstances:

 

a) The payment(s) fully settled the debt including the bailiff's fees; b) The debtor clearly indicated that the payment is for the bailiff.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

REPLY:

 

 

Thank you for your email and please accept my apologies if my response was unclear. I can confirm that payments are only made under either of the 2 circumstances a or b.

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But the fees and the amounts due for the order are apportioned, all the FOI agree(including yours), this is done when the sum is received by the authority(although admittedly by various methods).


DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES TO COLD CALLERS PROMISING TO WRITE OFF YOUR DEBTS

DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES FOR COSTLY TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS WITH SO CALLED "EXPERTS" THEY INVARIABLY ARE NOTHING OF THE SORT

BEWARE OF QUICK FIX DEBT SOLUTIONS, IF IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT INVARIABLY IS

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But the fees and the amounts due for the order are apportioned, all the FOI agree(including yours), this is done when the sum is received by the authority(although admittedly by various methods).

 

No they don't.

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