Agenda and minutes

East Herts Council and Stevenage Borough Council Joint Revenues and Benefits Committee
Tuesday 23rd October, 2012 6.00 pm

Venue: Shimkent Room, Daneshill House, Stevenage

Contact: Peter Mannings  Tel: (01279) 502174 Email:  peter.mannings@eastherts.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors L Haysey and P Moore. There were no declarations of interest.

2.

Minutes - 19 July 2012 pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of held on 19 July 2012 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

3.

Quarterly Update pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Minutes:

The Committee received a report detailing the current position in thefollowing areas:

 

1. Implementation

2. Performance Reporting

3. Budget Monitoring

4. Future Challenges

 

Implementation

 

The Committee was advised that the Revenues and Benefits team had undertaken a course in telephone negotiating skills and it was requested that it be noted that the Joint Revenues and Benefits section at East Herts District Council had been the first section in the council to complete Personal Development Reviews for all team members. This would enable early identification of the team’s learning requirements

and allow for an appropriate training programme to be established as soon as possible.

 

In reply to a question the Committee was advised that the IT necessary for a shared platform was on schedule and it was confirmed that separate systems could be run for each partner if required.

 

Performance Reporting and Budget

 

The Committee was advised that new claims were being processed within 10 days leading to a significant drop in complaints from the Stevenage Housing Team and an improvement in working relationships between the teams.

 

Concerns were expressed over the level of turnover of agency staff and there was a fear that staff would leave before the expected reduction in workload as a result of the introduction of Universal Credits. Officers confirmed that contingency arrangements for that scenario were being investigated.

 

A number of graphs and tables, which highlighted the workflow and increasing number of cases dealt with by the service, were distributed about which Members asked a number of detailed questions which were answered by the Officers.

 

It was noted that the caseload continued to rise at the same rate for both councils.

 

In reply to a question concerning collection of non-domestic rates the Committee was advised that large organisations were unwilling to sign up to direct debit arrangements over concerns about cash flow. In cases where arrears had built up a personal approach had been taken to debt collection.

 

Following discussion about the collection periods for Council Tax the Strategic Director (Resources) undertook to prepare a report for Stevenage Members proposing a twelve monthly collection option once the necessary details had been received from the Head of Revenues and Benefits.

 

The Committee was advised that the proposed Council Tax Benefit Schemes were essentially identical for each council although it was acknowledged that the results of the consultation exercise had yet to be taken into account. It was tentatively agreed that an option might be to revisit the cost allocations should one council’s scheme prove easier to administer then the others.

 

Future Challenges

 

In reply to concerns about benefit income caps to the introduced in 2013 the Head of Revenues and Benefits undertook to circulate a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ paper that had been produced by the Department of Work and Pensions.

 

Concerns were expressed that as a result of reduced benefits some people could have trouble paying Council Tax demands and it was confirmed that there would be no central fund to help those in financial difficulties.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.