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Liability Orders...Summons costs of £75 can include 'IT' Technology, 'Chip and Pin', and Pension Deficit Funding costs.

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A few days ago a vitally important judgment was released concerning (once again) the matter of Liability Order 'costs'. This particular case was an appeal and was heard in the High Court but unlike in the recent case of the Reverend Nicolson, this particular local authority (East Northamptonshire District Council) had prepared a schedule of standardised costs of the type encouraged by Judge Andrews in the Reverend's case (paragraph 46).

 

The claimant; Edward Williams represented himself and his appeal concerned (amongst other points) the following:

 

One:

 

That the summons served was an abuse of process because within it, it included an amount of costs (£75). He contended that the Regulations make no provision for the summons to include an amount by way of costs and that costs could only become due once, and if, a liability order were made

 

Two:

 

That including the amount of costs on the face of the summons was an abuse because it was an unlawful demand for money which the local authority had no right to make at that time. He contended that the costs were not due and owing
at the date of the summons
.

 

He pointed out that the complaint on which the summons was based made no reference to the costs of £75. He submitted that it was an unfair manipulation of the Court process to include an amount for costs on the face of the summons,
particularly when the only real summons cost was £3.

 

He suggested that the recipient of a summons would be misled into believing that the costs of £75 were
fixed
and could not be debated or challenged.

 

Three:

 

He wanted to appeal the earlier decision regarding the sum of £75 and whether the costs had been 'reasonably incurred'. Most importantly; (and this is of significance to all local authorities who had been waiting for this case to be heard), Mr Williams considered that when compiling a schedule of costs, East Northamptonshire Council were wrong to include figures for:

 

Information and Technology costs.

 

Chip and Pin costs.

 

Pension deficit funding.

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Three:

 

He wanted to appeal the earlier decision regarding the sum of £75 and whether the costs had been 'reasonably incurred'. Most importantly; (and this is of significance to all local authorities who had been waiting for this case to be heard), Mr Williams considered that when compiling a schedule of costs, East Northamptonshire Council were wrong to include figures for:

 

Information and Technology costs.

 

Chip and Pin costs.

 

Pension deficit funding.

 

The Schedule of Costs produced by East Northamptonshire District Council contained an annual summary of the costs said to be 'reasonably incurred' by the council in the period before a Court hearing. The amount of the costs was stated as £266,102 and was divided by the number of annual liability orders made in the preceding year (3496) to produce a "standard" cost of £76.12 per case.

 

The summary also included a figure of £78.42 per case in respect of cases where an attendance in court was required. Nonetheless, the council limited each claim to £75.

 

ICT costs:

 

Included within the total amount of £266,102 was an amount of £75,967.77 entitled: Academy Annual Maintenance Charges' and included within this, a figure of £11,397 in respect of Information Technology (software licences and maintenance).

 

Mr Williams dispute this figure and in doing so, relied upon guidance from the "Capita usergroups".

 

 

Chip and Pin costs

 

A figure of £881 was provided.

 

Pension Deficit Funding

 

The third item that Mr Williams wanted to object to was the inclusion of £62,830 in respect of "pension – deficit funding". This line item formed part of a total overhead cost of £598,100.

 

In relation to this figure, Mr Alexander Nissen QC stated the following:

 

"I accept the Respondent's submissions. In my judgment, there was nothing wrong in principle with the inclusion of an amount for pension deficit costs in light of the evidence which was given and the facts found. Pension costs form part of the general expenditure reasonably and properly incurred by the Respondent in carrying out its general functions in just the same way as salaries, national insurance contributions and other costs traditionally associated with the employment of staff. The cost to the Respondent of funding a pension deficit should be seen in exactly the same way."

 

In relation to the others costs, he confirmed that there was nothing wrong in principle with any of them.

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I think the first 2 are ok to be costed

 

But the third should be in the council tax.

 

Leakie

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The Schedule of Costs produced by East Northamptonshire District Council contained an annual summary of the costs said to be 'reasonably incurred' by the council in the period before a Court hearing. The amount of the costs was stated as £266,102 and was divided by the number of annual liability orders made in the preceding year (3496) to produce a "standard" cost of £76.12 per case.

 

The summary also included a figure of £78.42 per case in respect of cases where an attendance in court was required. Nonetheless, the council limited each claim to £75.

 

ICT costs:

 

Included within the total amount of £266,102 was an amount of £75,967.77 entitled: Academy Annual Maintenance Charges' and included within this, a figure of £11,397 in respect of Information Technology (software licences and maintenance).

 

Mr Williams dispute this figure and in doing so, relied upon guidance from the "Capita usergroups".

 

 

Chip and Pin costs

 

A figure of £881 was provided.

 

Pension Deficit Funding

 

The third item that Mr Williams wanted to object to was the inclusion of £62,830 in respect of "pension – deficit funding". This line item formed part of a total overhead cost of £598,100.

 

In relation to this figure, Mr Alexander Nissen QC stated the following:

 

"I accept the Respondent's submissions. In my judgment, there was nothing wrong in principle with the inclusion of an amount for pension deficit costs in light of the evidence which was given and the facts found. Pension costs form part of the general expenditure reasonably and properly incurred by the Respondent in carrying out its general functions in just the same way as salaries, national insurance contributions and other costs traditionally associated with the employment of staff. The cost to the Respondent of funding a pension deficit should be seen in exactly the same way."

 

In relation to the others costs, he confirmed that there was nothing wrong in principle with any of them.

 

PS:

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I think the first 2 are ok to be costed

 

But the third should be in the council tax.

 

Leakie

 

Here is the judgement:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2016/470.html&query=Reverend+and+Nicolson&method=boolean

 

Can I also just add that in relation to my initial post, the Judge ruled against Mr Williams on each of the three points.

 

This particular judgment has been eagerly awaited and I really do hope that local authorities will not use it as a 'green light' to increase summons costs. Instead, I hope that the government will reflect on it and 'pull their finger out' (express the expression) and get legislation introduced to 'cap' summons cost in the same way that is done in Wales

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This particular judgment has been eagerly awaited and I really do hope that local authorities will not use it as a 'green light' to increase summons costs. Instead, I hope that the government will reflect on it and 'pull their finger out' (express the expression) and get legislation introduced to 'cap' summons cost in the same way that is done in Wales

 

I should have said; 'pardon the expression'.

 

PS: The 10 minute edit has caught me out again !!

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I hope the government puts a cap on it

My council charges £95,

£65 before it goes to court, and a further £30, once LO is Granted.

 

I once had a council debt that they had re adjusted (wife had walked out on me and Kids)

the £95 owed became £190, then a further £75 before I had been notified about the change.

It is a money making exercise to a certain extent for the councils.

 

With regard to the part about Pension deficit, the judge may have ruled it OK

but it does not mean it is right,

 

there should not be a pension deficit if the people in charge at the council did there job properly

But this is my opinion so it does not count.

 

 

Leakie

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As far as the pension deficit is concerned i would like to make this observation.

Was an allowance to recover a portion of the pension deficit included in the cost to all the rate payers for that tax year?

If yes, then to include it again for those who are behind in their payments means that they have paid twice.

If no, then why should the late payers have to pay it?

 

Also with regard to chip and pin costs although I accept that the sums are small, the Council appear to be saying that Capita [eeugh] have come up with this figure based on the number of people

who settled their debt prior to the Court hearing. Fine apart from the fact that I suspect that more than a few people would have paid by cheque, debit card, or cash or perhaps by a direct payment into the Council bank account without therefore incurring any credit card charges.

£881 seems an awful lot of credit card payments were made .........................................

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As far as the pension deficit is concerned i would like to make this observation.

 

Was an allowance to recover a portion of the pension deficit included in the cost to all the rate payers for that tax year?If yes, then to include it again for those who are behind in their payments means that they have paid twice. If no, then why should the late payers have to pay it?

 

What an interesting observation !!

 

Unfortunately, this judgement was an appeal heard in the High Court and whether we like it or not, is a powerful judgment and surely the government cannot drag their heels must longer in introducing legislation to 'cap' the fees.

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Yes it's a pity that he wasn't represented since his Brief should have picked up on something like that. As it is the Council ran rings round the Judge. One does hope that more Judges will

think for themselves rather than appear to be biased against those who represent themselves. Especially in this case where Council taxpayers were also being represented by him.

 

Perhaps it is our fault that we do not club together to help when people like Mr Williams and the Reverend go up against the Courts and Councils by having proper barristers who know

their business and can fight their corner. this was another chance missed.

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Why not cut to the chase? Councils are anxious to get all and any cost included so as to subvert it into a Revenue Source, why else would they add Pension Deficit into the calculation.

 

This judgment may well lead to significant rises in costs in the future unless the government apply a cap.


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Yes it's a pity that he wasn't represented since his Brief should have picked up on something like that. As it is the Council ran rings round the Judge. One does hope that more Judges will think for themselves rather than appear to be biased against those who represent themselves. Especially in this case where Council taxpayers were also being represented by him.

 

Perhaps it is our fault that we do not club together to help when people like Mr Williams and the Reverend go up against the Courts and Councils by having proper barristers who know

their business and can fight their corner. this was another chance missed.

 

In fact, in the case of the Reverend, we must not forget that he was indeed represented by a highly experienced legal team. The problem with taking a case to court is that many times, the point being argued is made far worse. Take the Reverend's latest case (which he sadly lost and was ordered to pay £50,000) as an example. In that case (link below) Lord Justice Hamblen stated that:

 

“There is nothing unlawful in resolving to charge the maximum [costs]”.

 

In this particular case (which is an appeal case), it was agreed that when compiling a schedule of costs, local authorities can now include in that schedule; IT costs, Chip and Pin costs and remarkably, Pension Deficit costs !!! With local authorities desperate for income and with many having to 'share' services with other councils or even 'merge' , then common sense alone will dictate that increasing 'summons costs' is an attractive means of additional income.

 

Last year approx 3.6 million Liability Orders were obtained in England and Wales and it is estimated that with benefit changes this year, that this figure could rise to 4 million. If 'summons' costs increased by £10 that would produce additional revenue to local authorities of £400 million. The only way to curb this is for the government to quickly introduce legislation capping the summons costs.

 

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?460770-Reverend-Nicholson-loses-court-appeal-and-ordered-to-pay-%A350-000.-Summons-and-liability-order-costs-not-unreasonable.

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When I saw ' chip and pin' this struck me as something I had seen on a thread here. A little searching later.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?446640-Me-v-the-council-quot-test-case-quot&p=4742063&viewfull=1#post4742063


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When I saw ' chip and pin' this struck me as something I had seen on a thread here. A little searching later.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?446640-Me-v-the-council-quot-test-case-quot&p=4742063&viewfull=1#post4742063

 

Thanks for the link. I cant remember reading this before.

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This is extraordinary! Why should only debtors be, or at all responsible for Pension issues the Council is having?

 

It's like when Banks tried to justify their Penalty Charges by claiming "shoe leather" for staff walking from their computer to the office printer, and "light bulbs"

 

Clearly another member of the Judiciary has sadly been bought, or quietly encouraged to give the "right" judgement, regardless.


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This is extraordinary! Why should only debtors be, or at all responsible for Pension issues the Council is having?

 

It's like when Banks tried to justify their Penalty Charges by claiming "shoe leather" for staff walking from their computer to the office printer, and "light bulbs"

 

Clearly another member of the Judiciary has sadly been bought, or quietly encouraged to give the "right" judgement, regardless.

Looks that way Caled. They don't want to open floodgates and let the charges examined properly. Pension deficit, will be CEO's salary next on the list of allowables for the costs..


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consider this- everyone pays their council tax on time- council then makes a loss of over £320k because they have underestimated their income from penalties and fees. How then does the council garner the money for this shortfall as they cannot reissue a CT demand to every taxpayer and wont have time to add it to the next year's bill. No, the amount shown as a deficit because of this doesnt exist except where they have to employ someone to process the summonses and that person does nothing else. However, the pension shortfall for 1 member of staff will be about £60pa

Put it bluntly it is utter bull but judicial decisions will always follow the money

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Put it bluntly it is utter bull but judicial decisions will always follow the money

That's the reality.


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Looks that way Caled. They don't want to open floodgates and let the charges examined properly. Pension deficit, will be CEO's salary next on the list of allowables for the costs..

 

This needs to be taken to the Supreme Court, it is totally unreasonable to expect people already having debt and payment problems to be the only people responsible for covering pension issues - if they added a similar figure to council tax for everyone, there would be absolute uproar.

 

It would be like the MOJ decreeing that Magistrates add a £10 "MOJ Pension Deficit" Charge to anyone convicted of a crime, since expecting the poor to pick up the tab seems the new thing.


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This needs to be taken to the Supreme Court, it is totally unreasonable to expect people already having debt and payment problems to be the only people responsible for covering pension issues - if they added a similar figure to council tax for everyone, there would be absolute uproar.

 

It would be like the MOJ decreeing that Magistrates add a £10 "MOJ Pension Deficit" Charge to anyone convicted of a crime, since expecting the poor to pick up the tab seems the new thing.

That on top of the "Victim's Surcharge" and the now removed Criminal Court Costs of £150 for a guilty plea to infinity if case fought. So

TVL fine: £100,

Victim Surcharge: £25

Criminal Court Costs: £150

Total to pay was £275

 

 

 

The costs exceeded the fine by 175% glad these pernicious fees were culled


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That on top of the "Victim's Surcharge" and the now removed Criminal Court Costs of £150 for a guilty plea to infinity if case fought.

 

The costs exceeded the fine by 175% glad these pernicious fees were culled

 

Not permanently though. Although the Criminal Courts Charge has been scrapped, the Judiciary are urgently reviewing the matter.

 

I have little doubt that a fee of some sort while be charged but as to how this is charged, whether it is charged to all fine defaulters and how much will be charged, we just have to wait and see.

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For some reason, despite the fact that Judges are railing against, and are livid about them, the massive unjustifiable Fee Increases in the Civil Court System are not setting the media on fire like the Criminal Court Charge! And these increases need to be made as public as possible, as they are basically removing the ability of people on low, and real average incomes to get Civil Justice on things such as debt, making the County Courts the purview of the well off, and companies.

 

I don't recall the specific figures, but 1 Judge has said the old fee of something like £250 for a simple uncontested Divorce was already making profit for the MOJ, as the cost of administering them was very negligible - clearly a contested Divorce requires a Court Room to be booked for x amount of time, and then a Judge needs to read all the submissions, interview both sides, witnesses, investigate assets, but in a simple uncontested case it doesn't even go to a court room AFAIK, a Judge will simply sign and stamp, in his chambers. But a simple Divorce has now gone up to something like £750!!!!


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Not permanently though. Although the Criminal Courts Charge has been scrapped, the Judiciary are urgently reviewing the matter.

 

I have little doubt that a fee of some sort while be charged but as to how this is charged, whether it is charged to all fine defaulters and how much will be charged, we just have to wait and see.

 

They better build more jails for those who genuinely cannot pay then, just like in Dickens's day, it certainly looks like it's going that way with fees now becoming far higher than the original debt in many cases.


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I don't recall the specific figures, but 1 Judge has said the old fee of something like £250 for a simple uncontested Divorce was already making profit for the MOJ, as the cost of administering them was very negligible - clearly a contested Divorce requires a Court Room to be booked for x amount of time, and then a Judge needs to read all the submissions, interview both sides, witnesses, investigate assets, but in a simple uncontested case it doesn't even go to a court room AFAIK, a Judge will simply sign and stamp, in his chambers. But a simple Divorce has now gone up to something like £750!!!!

 

The fee for a divorce petition increased by 34% from 21st March and is now £550.

 

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/moj-set-to-impose-34-divorce-fee-hike-next-monday/5054266.article

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That on top of the "Victim's Surcharge"

 

I am now the one to blame for taking the threat 'off topic' !!

 

Reading your comment about the Victims Surcharge did make me laugh. Big changes are on the way here as well!! I will provide details later today (in a different information thread).

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