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Council Tax Court Cost Breakdown

Requested on
Mon 7th July, 2014
Reference
FOI 4641
Resolution
Information provided

Question

Please supply the following information:
• Full breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the council of issuing a summons for the non-payment or late payment of council tax. If only total costs are available then I also request the total volume of summons the costs relate to
• Full breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the council of obtaining a liability order following the issuing of a summons / court hearing. As above, if only total costs are available then I also request the total volume of liability orders the costs relate to
• The actual costs to the council of hiring the magistrates court for the processing of the court hearings

Answer

Costs: The process of agreeing costs with the Court Service involved the Leicestershire Authorities providing a breakdown of costs associated with the recovery of debts. The average of those figures was presented to the Court Service for their approval as ‘reasonable costs’.  The court agreed the same reasonable costs for all these authorities.

The following items are taken into account when calculating costs:
Account maintenance costs for summonsed accounts.
Printing, packing, and postage costs for reminder notices, final notices and summonses.
Staff costs related to telephone calls, correspondence and visits concerning summons accounts.
Staff costs related to attendance at Court.
IT costs related to the recovery process.
Magistrates Court fees.
The number of summons issued in 2013 – 8724
The number Liability Orders in financial year 2013/14 - 7031

A full breakdown of the costs put forward by Charnwood will not be disclosed as some of these figures relate to contractual costs between ourselves and the company contracted to provide our revenues service, and are therefore Commercially Sensitive.  Commercially sensitive data is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act under section 43(2). 
Section 43(2) of the Act covers information which would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the Council) if it was to disclose it. Disclosing information at this level of detail is likely to reveal details of the commercial way in which our revenues service contractor Capita operates and provides services in a competitive environment.

As Section 43(2) is a qualified exemption, we are also required to decide, on a case by case basis, whether the public interest in maintaining this exemption outweighs the public interest in its disclosure.  The Information Commissioner has suggested that the factors that would weigh in favour of disclosure would include:

• Furthering the understanding and participation in the public debate of issues of the day.
• Promoting accountability and transparency by public authorities for decisions taken by them.
• Promoting accountability and transparency in the spending of public money.
• Allowing individuals, companies and other bodies to understand decisions made by public authorities affecting their lives.
• Bringing to light information affecting public health and safety.

Given the nature of the exemption in this case, it is our opinion that although the first and third of these factors weigh in favour of the public interest in disclosing the information, they do not outweigh that in maintaining the exemption. It cannot be in the public interest to disclose information if it reveals details of its operations in a way that is detrimental to its commercial interests. It is our conclusion that it would not, therefore, be in the public interest to disclose this information.  For these reasons we are not able to supply the information requested.

The Magistrates court fee is £3 per order.

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