Birmingham City slammed for poor handling of benefits

6 Dec 01
Birmingham City Council (BCC) has been hauled over the coals for its 'poor' administration of benefits and 'very weak' attempts at countering fraud.

07 December 2001

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) reported that the authority's performance on housing benefits and council tax was characterised by backlogs of claims and 'inadequate control' over its filing system.

BFI programme manager Bill Hern said: '[BCC's] filing system was so poor that 22% of the files that we requested were not produced, a further 7% were incorrect or incomplete, and many of the files that could be found were not located for several days.'

The report added: 'The lack of control over filing causes many concerns. Most importantly, there is a risk of internal fraud, as BCC cannot vouch for the existence of claimants whose files are missing.' The BFI noted that the council had since taken action on its filing system.

The report, published on November 30, claimed failings were leaving Birmingham open to other problems. It said: 'Flawed procedures and controls in the benefits section allowed scope for internal fraud, particularly when staff were put under pressure by work arrears. Weaknesses included poor computer access control, poor post opening procedures and inadequate management checks.'

The report was also critical of the council's record in recovering overpayments, and concluded it was unlikely to recover much of the £3.5m that had been outstanding for more than two years.

Each year Birmingham pays out £370m in benefits, the equivalent of 19% of its gross revenue expenditure.


Did you enjoy this article?