Housing benefit changes tax councils

13 Jul 00
Just two out of five local authorities in London are coping with complex changes to housing benefit introduced during the past year, according to a new report.

14 July 2000

The London Housing Federation study concludes that, with three-fifths of councils failing to meet administration targets, nearly 100,000 of the capital's 160,000 housing benefit claimants are in danger of running up rent arrears because they do not receive their benefit on time.

Reaping the benefit, which was presented to social security minister Angela Eagle on July 6, argues local authorities have been hit by 85 regulatory changes in the past 12 months.

Sue Ellenby, head of the federation, said it was time for the government to 'simplify the system, stop making frequent changes and ensure that housing benefit administration is properly funded'.

Registered social landlords contacted by the federation complained that rent arrears caused by benefit delays are leading to substantial extra management costs. But poor service is not universal.

'Some authorities have succeeded in delivering this difficult service well,' says the report, based on a survey of 22 London boroughs and 25 housing associations which operate in the capital.

Although just under half of London councils outsource housing benefit administration, this does not appear to make much difference. 'Outsourcing has had little discernible impact on the standards achieved by poorly performing authorities,' it says.

But some councils commented that it was harder to be accountable and open about service standards when contractors were involved.

The report calls for a subsidy framework that rewards good performance, clarification about how the work of benefit fraud inspectors will link into best value and stronger partnerships between councils and RSLs.


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