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BFI REPORT FINDS 'VARIABLE STANDARDS' AT BROMLEY LBC (PLUS COUNCIL'S RESPONSE)

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Work and pensions secretary Alistair Darling has ...
Work and pensions secretary Alistair Darling has

published a report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) into

the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit and

counter fraud activity by Bromley LBC.

The borough paid out£61m in benefits in 1999/2000.

An inspection, which took place in November 2000, covered a wide

range of activity examining the procedures for Getting it Right,

Keeping it Right, Putting it Right and Making sure things work.

Bromley welcomed the inspection as an opportunity to review and

improve its benefit operations. The council has expressed its

commitment to improving the security and integrity of the benefits

system and modernising all its services using e-government.

In 1993 Bromley outsourced its benefit service, together with most of

its other services to Capita. It was one of the first local

authorities to outsource its benefit service.

Bromley has used consultation and a wide range of advertising methods

to promote the legitimate take up of housing benefit and council tax

benefit.

The Report identifies variable standards in the verifying of claims

and improvement needed in this area and on the speed of processing

claims. It recommends more rigorous management and controls to

improve the quality and consistency of checking and to ensure that

guidance is followed.

The council has a strong culture of probity at officer and member

level. It recognises the need to draw together existing policies on

probity into a single fraud and corruption policy. The BFI's findings

show that Bromley's performance in tackling fraud has been found to

be ineffective in its organisation and investigation quality. A

number of recommendations to tackle this are contained within the

report.

Since the on-site visit Bromley has begun to implement recommended

changes, such as increasing staffing in the client unit. Full

implementation of the recommendations contained in the report should

enable it to build a more secure and efficient benefits system.

The BFI is an independent unit within the

DWP that reports directly to the

secretary of state for work and pensions on the standard of benefit

administration and counter fraud activity.

It works to help councils improve efficiency and deter, prevent,

detect and investigate fraud by strengthening the security of the

delivery of benefits. Its Report includes recommendations of good

practice and Bromley LBC will be able to make use

of these to address the weaknesses identified.

* A copy of the report can be found here.

A press release from Bromley LBC follows:

Response by the London Borough Of Bromley to the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate Report.

The council welcomes the positive comments regarding the benefit service and the acknowledgement of the strong approach and commitment to probity when spending public funds, which have been made in the report. The BFI report compliments the results of a recent national survey, which found 67% of Bromley claimants who visited the benefit office were satisfied with the service they received.

The council acknowledges there were areas where the service could be improved such as delays in payment, as well as recognizing the strengths of the service such as good liaison with housing associations.

Fraud prevention measures resulted in benefit savings of£412,000 in 2000/2001. The council has already taken steps to strengthen the service and these include the recruitment of extra staff and the appointment of a fraud manager to improve the fraud investigation service.

Cllr Russell Mellor, chairman of property and finance sub-committee commented: 'The Council is already working to drive forward the recommended changes to improve the service for benefit claimants'.

Note

The current contract with Capita commenced in 1993 and will end on 31 March 2002. The new contract, which will run from 1 April 2002, is in the process of being tendered and the council is currently considering bids

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