25 February 2000
New figures published this week by the National Housing Federation showed that local authorities owe housing associations an estimated £60m in benefit, mainly because of delays in administration.
In a letter to social security minister Angela Eagle on February 21, NHF chief executive Jim Coulter urged the government to tackle the delays now, rather than wait for the results of consultations over the future of housing benefit. These are expected to follow the forthcoming housing finance green paper.
To speed up the process of paying benefit, registered social landlords want to be able to verify tenants' benefit claims on behalf of council benefit departments.
They also want an end to the 'four weeks in arrears rule', introduced in October 1996, so that RSL tenants would receive benefit at the same time as their rent is due, as do council tenants.
The £60m figure is based on an earlier NHF survey, published last October, which showed 2% of the total RSL rent roll is in arrears because of poor administration.
Liz Potter, NHF director of policy, said: 'There are an awful lot of areas where housing benefit administration has almost seized up.
'We need the government to do something now because there are very few sanctions that can be taken to get local authorities moving.'