Decision Maker: East Herts Council and Stevenage Borough Council Joint Revenues and Benefits Committee
Decision published: 23/07/2021
Effective from: 25/06/2020
The Committee received a report detailing the current position
in the following areas:
· Performance reporting
· Other Challenges
In relation to Housing Benefit processing (N181), the Committee was advised that the indicator had shown a significant achievement for the shared service. The level of the workload had reduced mainly due to the transfer to Universal Credit although recent figures had seen an upturn due to the current situation with regard to lockdown and job losses etc. It was also noted that the benefit system was now more complex and that some claims could take up to a maximum of 30 days to be resolved.
The Committee was informed that in terms of Housing Benefit overpayments, a review of the overpayment collection processes had been carried out that had improved working procedures. Members were also pleased to note that for the first time, both Councils were recovering more than was being raised, and accordingly the debt outstanding was reducing.
The Committee was informed of the changes in levels of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) and the increasing pressure on the funds from customers on Universal Credit (UC) which put additional administrative pressure on those officers processing the awards of DHP. It was also expected that there would be a jump in the DHP caseload due to the current situation with Covid-19.
In response to a question, officers advised that the date for all customers to be on UC was still to be confirmed by the DWP although there was natural migration for some customers to the new system.
In relation to Council Tax Support, there had been a gradual reduction in caseloads up until the impact of Covid-19. Officers advised that the situation was being kept under review by the Herts Chief Financial Officer Group.
Members were advised that in terms of Council Tax, the collection rate had been lower than in previous years due to a number of reasons including delays in property banding by the Valuation Office Agency. Work was ongoing with customers to ensure help was given where needed.
The collection of Business Rates had been successful and both Councils had achieved the highest collection rates for a number of years up to the point of Covid-19. Members expressed thanks on behalf of themselves and the business community to the officers for the help and advice given to them in the current climate.
Officers advise the Committee of a number of reliefs that had been announced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic including the small business grant scheme, the retail, hospitality and leisure grant scheme, the expanded retail relief scheme and a ‘discretionary’ grant scheme.
The Chair and all Members of the Committee expressed their thanks to the Officers for their work over the previous year and in particular the way they were dealing with the challenges of Covid-19 for both authorities.
It was RESOLVED that the report be noted.
Wards affected: (All Wards);
Lead officer: Su Tarran
Decision Maker: Executive Member for Wellbeing
Decision published: 13/07/2021
Effective from: 31/07/2021
Wards affected: Sawbridgeworth;
Lead officer: Jonathan Geall