Local Authority Forum Summer 2018

Welcome to the latest edition of our briefing for Scottish Local Authorities.

Click here to download a digital pdf

This edition focuses on the Local Authority Forum held in May 2018.

We were delighted that Alan Munro, Partner at TLT LLP, Emma Shields, Business Services Manager, Renfrewshire Council and Pauline Allan, Debt Advice Co-ordinator, Citizens Advice Scotland could join us on the day.

Each of our guest speakers provided a range of insights and informative talks which the Local Authority delegates discussed during the workshop discussion session.

Click on the link above to download a pdf to read on your desktop, tablet or mobile

Local Authority Forum Winter 2017-18

Welcome to the latest edition of our briefing for Scottish Local Authorities.

Click here to download a digital pdf

This edition focuses on the Local Authority Forum held in November 2017.

We were delighted that Mark Ranson and Steven Wright from Armstrong Watson, Chartered Accountants, Business and Financial Advisers; David McKenzie, Co-founder of Occutrace and Cheryl Hynd from the City of Edinburgh Council could join us on the day.

Each of the guest speakers provided a range of insights and informative talks which the Local Authority delegates discussed during the workshop discussion session.

Issues covered during the sessions and featured in this edition included

Click on the links above to download a pdf to read on your desktop, tablet or mobile

Walker Love Local Authority Forum

Local Authority Briefing Summer 2017

This edition focuses on the Local Authority Forum which was held at the end of May 2017.

Click here to download a digital pdf

We were delighted to be joined by Neale Tosh and Adam McCabe from Brodies, Fergus Walker from Argyll & Bute Council and Alex Reid from the Accountant in Bankruptcy.

Each of the guest speakers provided a range of insights and informative talks which the Local Authority delegates discussed during the workshop discussion session.

Issues discussed at the Forum and featured in this edition include:

  • Update on the proposed changes to the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973
  • The recent AiB consultation on Diligence, trends in bankruptcy and a guest article from Fiona Wilson, DAS team leader, AiB which covers the AiB’s engagement strategy.
  • Argyll & Bute Council’s strategy to tackle the housing shortage in the area
  • Walker Love’s new west coast diligence centre
  • LA Forum – delegates views on the impact of the increase in Council Tax charges

Click here to download an interactive pdf to read on your PC, tablet or mobile.

Local Authority Briefing Autumn-Winter 16/17

Welcome to the latest edition of our briefing for Scottish Local Authorities.

Click here to download a digital pdf

This edition focuses on the Local Authority Forum held in November 2016.

We were delighted that Jim McCafferty, Immediate Past President of the IRRV, Ross Nicol, Partner, McLay Murray & Spens and Kelly Quigley, AIB Head of DAS and Trust Deeds, could join us on the day.

Each of the guest speakers provided a range of insights and informative talks which the Local Authority delegates discussed during the workshop discussion session.

Issues covered during the sessions included the challenges faced by Local Authorities in delivering local services, the impact of the GDPR (the replacement for the Data Protection Act 1998) which will come into force in May 2018, and the current DAS caseload and the improvements to the scheme that are in the pipeline.

Click on the links below to download a pdf to read on your desktop, tablet or mobile

 

Walker Love receives full FCA Authorisation

Walker Love has become the first firm of Sheriff Officers & Debt Recovery specialists in Scotland to receive full authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to carry out financial services debt recovery activity throughout the UK.

“Receiving FCA authorisation is another significant milestone for Walker Love and we were delighted to be the first firm in Scotland to achieve fully authorised status. As Officers of the Court responsible for enforcing the civil law in Scotland, treating customers fairly whilst safeguarding an individual’s dignity and legal rights is in our DNA.

It has always been our ethos to discharge our duties fairly and impartially, so it wasn’t a giant leap for us to go through the rigorous application process, whereby we were required to openly demonstrate our robust oversight and governance framework, in order to receive our FCA licence”, commented David Walker, Managing Partner of Walker Love.

This award follows on from the firm successfully gaining Silver Investors in People (IIP) status at the end of 2015, augmenting other industry quality standards the firm has been awarded, including the coveted UKAS ISO27001 and ISO9001 standards for information security and quality assurance.

“We service a wide range of Local Authorities, Government agencies, financial services organisations and firms of solicitors both in Scotland and in England & Wales. By being awarded our FCA licence, it provides our clients with an added level of assurance and confidence, especially when they are dealing with regulated financial products and vulnerable individuals”.

The FCA came into force on 1 April 2013 and regulates UK firms providing financial services to consumers, having taken over responsibility for regulating the consumer credit industry from the Office of Fair Trading on 1 April 2014.

Walker Love Local Authority Forum Summer 2016

Walker Love’s Local Authority Forum provides finance and debt collection professionals an opportunity to get together to discuss the main issues impacting the collection of monies owed to Local Authorities.

The Forum also provides Local Authority delegates an opportunity to share best practice and to discuss legislative developments and the potential impact on Authorities current and future collection and debt recovery strategies.

The Forum takes place on 7th June at Houstoun House Hotel, Livingston and will be hosted by David Walker, Chris Bell, Dorothy Lowe and James Walker from Walker Love, and the following guest speakers:

  • Dr Richard Dennis, The Accountant in Bankruptcy and Agency Chief Executive; and Carol Kirk, Policy Team Leader will provide an update on the strategic policies and post implementation review of Bankruptcy and Diligence legislation.
  • Yvonne MacDermid, Chief Executive, Money Advice Scotland (MAS), will provide a talk on their financial capability work and the role of MAS.
  • Gary Weir, Service Delivery Manager, Glasgow City Council will discuss the Council’s recovery strategies and joint working initiatives with Walker Love.

With a workshop discussion on the practical implications for Local Authorities arising from the AIB policy chaired by Walker Love Partners, the session begins at 9.15am and runs until 1.30pm.

If you would like to attend, please do get in touch with Chris Bell or Dorothy Lowe, Walker Love. We would be delighted to hear from you.

 

Evolution of Customer Service Technologies

Andy Fraser, Contact Centre Manager, Walker Love recently took part in a discussion on the development of customer contact technologies which was chaired by independent business journalist Sue Tabbitt for My Customer, an online community of customer service, CRM and customer experience professionals.

The expert panel looked at the evolution of digital communications technologies and how they are improving existing customer service channels and creating new ways to engage, interact and to meet rising customer expectations relating to experience and convenience.

Andy Fraser commented “it’s important for Walker Love competitively that our clients can see we’re at the forefront of customer engagement practice – using the latest techniques and employing all of the available channels to reach all of the target demographics – that’s an important driver for improvement.”

Are rapidly evolving communication technologies a help or a hindrance, or even an annoyance? What does the next big thing in customer engagement look like, will we finely give up the desktop and all move to mobile and is the customer service industry keeping pace?

You can read the whole discussion and contribute your views by visiting My Customer.com >read more.

Local Authority Forum: Council Tax – changes ahead?

Walker Love LA Briefng Winter 15-16Welcome to the latest edition of our briefing for Scottish Local Authorities.

Click here to download a copy

Focusing on the Local Authority Forum held the end of October 2015, we were delighted that Neil Ferguson, from the Secretariat of the Commission on Local Tax Reform, Alan Munro, Partner at TLT LLP and Sharon Bell from StepChange Debt Charity could join us on the day.

Each of  guest presenters delivered a very informative presentation with a  range of insights, discussion points and ideas on how to improve collection performance and maximise revenues in the year ahead and the latest thinking on Council Tax reform.

The briefing provides a summary of the key issues and discussion points. Click on any of the links below to download the interactive pdf to read on your desktop, tablet device or mobile.

Common Financial Statement: One standard for all

The Bankruptcy Law Reform consultation proposed a single financial tool to ensure consistency in assessment of debtors’ income and expenditure. Creating a common standard of financial assessment for advisers in the private, public and third sectors to use throughout Scotland is contained within the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice Act 2014 – the bill received Royal Ascent on 29th April 2014.

There are two main tools currently operating: the Common Financial Statement (CFS) and the StepChange tool.

The Common Financial Tool Working Group (CFTWG) was set up to consider the two existing tools, and they were also asked to explore if there was any merit and particular advantages in developing a Scottish-specific tool. The CFTWG was made up of bankers, insolvency practioners, lawyers and unions, as well as the AiB and Money Advice agencies.

The potential solutions were analysed using a sample of 50 current cases. For each case, the funds ingathered over a 48 month repayment period were assessed. The findings highlighted only marginal differences in realisation between the tools and the practical pros and cons of each tool were also scrutinised. It was concluded that developing a Scottish specific tool would offer no real advantages over the two existing solutions which were already available.

The CFTWG’s final recommendation was for CFS to become the single assessment tool in Scotland.

What is the Common Financial Statement?

The Common Financial Statement (CFS) was first published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and the Money Advice Trust (MAT) in 2002. It continues to be managed by the Money Advice Trust (MAT). It is a standard budget format which helps creditors, advisers, and people with debt get a clearer picture of an individual’s or household’s financial situation.

The main purpose of the CFS is to facilitate a discussion between the adviser and the debtor in order to develop a sustainable repayment plan which not only gets the best return for creditors but also provides the debtor with the best opportunity for financial (and in number of cases lifestyle) rehabilitation – and to break the cycle of debt once and for all.

Contained within the CFS are 4 categories of trigger figures for: Telecomms, Travel, Housekeeping and Other e.g. household repairs and maintenance. Trigger figures represent levels of expenditure among households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution in the UK and are calculated based on research from the UK Government’s Living Costs and Food Survey.

Fixed expenditure categories such as rent and mortgage payments do not have a trigger figure as spending on these items varies widely from household to household.

The CFS trigger figures are reviewed annually and published in April. Interim changes to the figures may be made if there is a significant increase within any expenditure category. Trigger figures should not be disclosed to anyone without a CFS licence, nor should they be disclosed to the general public, or used as financial or debt repayment targets. If trigger figures are exceeded by debtors reasons have to be provided.

A CFS licence must be obtained by all those who provide money advice to debtors before they can use the CFS tool. The licence is available free of charge from the Money Advice Trust.

Why was the CFS selected?

During the analysis, it was found that trigger figures were breached more by those using the StepChange budget guidelines than those debtors who engaged with the CFS tool. Other reasons included:

  • Financial rehabilitation – the CFS tool allows debtors to set money aside for unexpected events.
  • Clarity for creditors – the British Banker’s Association (BBA), Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) and major utility companies already recognise this tool as industry standard.
  • It’s fairer to debtors – the CFS is overseen by a sub-group consisting of representatives from the BBA, FLA, Building Society Association, Advice UK and Citizen’s Advice.  Any changes to the CFS trigger figures are approved by the sub-group. (AiB is now a member).
  • The CFS structure and uniformity encourages a consistent response from creditors, and reduces queries.
  • The majority of money advice services currently using the CFS, and therefore are already familiar with the rules and the software.
  • During the consultation we received 25 responses in support of the CFS, and only 4 in support of the StepChange model.

What next?

The Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act 2014 gives Scottish Ministers power to specify a common financial tool and the secondary legislation which is currently being drafted will provide the detail of the CFS tool and how it will operate.

Money advisers will be required to use the CFS with clients to assess surplus income and verify income and expenditure prior to entry into a statutory debt solution.

The AiB are currently considering how a provision for savings can be included in the regulations and we will also develop guidance in addition to the Money Advice Trust CFS guidance, which will be specific to Scottish statutory debt solution (DAS). The trigger figures will be built in to the new AiB case management system.

The Common Financial Tool Regulations will be introduced to Scottish Parliament later this year and will be commenced by April 2015. The AiB has a representation on CFS Client Support Steering Group (CSSG) which will enable us to monitor progress on the current discussions which are taking place at a UK level on a single income and expenditure statement (based on CFS format, principles and trigger figures). The new ‘CFS-Plus’ will improve the CFS including revising categories and allowing for savings provision.

Bankruptcy and Debt Advice fit for the 21st Century

What changes and improvements can we expect from the new Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill which is currently passing through the Scottish Parliament? Claire Orr, from the Accountant-in-Bankruptcy joined us at our recent Local Authority Forum to provide an overview of the new powers which are likely to come into force in spring 2015. The following provides an overview of the key points and impacts addressed by Claire.

When we set out to bring Scotland’s bankruptcy and debt advice legislation into the 21st century our primary aim was to ensure access to fair and just processes of debt relief and debt management for all, better balancing the interests of all parties and ensuring that those who can pay their debts do pay.

The current bankruptcy legislation did not provide all of the tools needed to address the challenges we now face. With the changes in society and the radical advances in technology, communications and financial services since 1985; not to mention the changes in public attitudes to credit and debt, the availability of credit, the increase in debt management solutions and the spectrum of debt advice which was being made available in the public, third and private sectors, it became clear that we needed a range of new solutions and tools for debt relief and debt management.

The consultation we issued in early 2012 was well received by stakeholders with a good response rate. Proposals have been modified based on the feedback we received during the consultation.

We also wanted to ensure that those debtors who can pay their debts should pay, creditors got the best return possible and we wanted to try to break the debt-cycle for individuals through improved rehabilitation from debt problems, education for both those experiencing debt problems and by developing early intervention education strategies to improve people’s financial awareness and confidence when dealing with financial matters.

Overview of the Bill

The Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill contains a range of powers – you can view the full bill on the Scottish Parliament website in the parliamentary business/current bills area of the site. You can also follow the current status and stages of the bill as it passes through the Parliament on this page. The Bill will complete its first stage of three in December 2013.

  • Advice and Education
  • Payments by debtor following sequestration
  • Minimal Asset Process
  • Moratorium on Diligence
  • Application Process
  • Administration of estate
  • Discharge
  • Records
  • Functions of Sheriff and AiB
  • Review of decisions by AiB

So what can we expect to see change around April 2015 when the updated Act is likely to come into force? 

One of the most important changes will be that individuals will no longer be able to make themselves bankrupt without having first taken advice from an approved money adviser.  Advice will ensure that people are aware of the range of solutions open to them and that they choose the solution most appropriate to their needs.

We want to ensure that bankruptcy becomes a last and final resort. Financial Education will be compulsory for some debtors who have been identified as vulnerable to recurring debts.

A common financial tool will be introduced as a mandatory part of the advice process. By ensuring that all money advisers use the same tool to assess income, expenditure and identify the surplus income available for a contributing towards debts we will improve consistency and transparency. The Common Financial Statement has been chosen as the common tool. This tool has the support of the money advice sector generally and it is accepted as a fair tool for the calculation of surplus income.

The debtor will be required to undertake to pay the contribution determined by the common financial tool for a minimum of 48 months, which is 12 months more than current sequestration.

Although this a longer period, evidence has shown that the Common Financial Statement makes a fair assessment of the amount of money individuals and families need and therefore the level of contributions set through this tool are sustainable. The longer payment period reflects the desire to increase returns to creditors. A new ‘debtor contribution order’ replaces the Income Payment Order and debtors will also be able to apply for a payment break of up to six months, but they will still have to make a minimum of 48 monthly payments. The debtor will be required to sign a new statement of undertaking and if they don’t sign it or comply with is conditions, including paying the determined contribution, it could lead to a delay in discharge. The aim is to encourage more co-operation from the debtor and more dialogue between debtor and their trustee.

A new moratorium is to be introduced across all statutory debt solutions which means if an individual gives notice that they want to apply for a statutory debt solution they will be given a six week period of protection from action against them by their creditors. This period of 6 weeks provides some breathing space and allows people to have the benefit of money advice. During this period no arrestment, money attachment, interim attachment or attachment of estate can have effect. Individuals who give notice will have their details entered by AiB on RoI and DAS register for the duration of the 6 week period.

There will no automatic discharge, except in MAP cases, and the trustee will have to apply to AiB for discharge at the end of the sequestration. If the trustee does not intend to apply for a discharge he/she must explain their reasons to the debtor. The debtor will be free to appeal to the Sheriff if they do not agree with the trustee. Furthermore, if someone has been discharged and subsequently inherits assets or assets are discovered that would have been vested in the trustee there will be a process for re-opening the case contained in the new Act.

To minimise the impact on the Sheriff Courts and to ensure that decisions are taken at the most appropriate level a number of administrative procedures will pass to the AiB, including application by a trustee for direction, recall of sequestration where debts can be paid in full and appointing a replacement trustee.