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More councils are meeting the standard for paying out housing benefit ...
More councils are meeting the standard for paying out housing benefit

set by the Department for Work and Pensions according to new figures.

These figures show local authorities' performance for processing

housing benefit and council tax benefit.

The figures, which cover the second quarter of 2003/4 reveal:

- 127 (31 per cent) authorities reported meeting the 36-day standard

of processing new claims, compared with 117 (28 per cent)

authorities in the second quarter of 2002/3.

- The average reported number of days to process new claims reduced

from 58 days in the second quarter of 2002/3 to 50 days in the

second quarter of 2003/4.

- Authorities in the bottom 25 per cent of performance reported

processing times of between 56 and 149 days.

- 156 (38 per cent) authorities reported meeting the standard of

processing changes in circumstances, on average within 9 days,

compared to 139 (34 per cent) in the second quarter of 2002/3.

- 228 (56 per cent) authorities reported an improved performance

between the first and second quarters in processing new claims.

Housing benefit minister Chris Pond said:

'This is good news and I applaud those authorities that have secured

these improvements. However there are still too many authorities

taking too long to process claims. It is unacceptable that some

claimants could have their tenancy put at risk due to delays in

handling housing benefit claims.

'We are working with many of the poorest performing authorities with

the aim of bringing about the improved service local people have the

right to expect'.


1. The quarterly statistics are provided by local authorities

themselves and are un-audited. Local authorities can update their quarterly

statistics at any time so these statistics are subject to change.

Some Local Authorities did not return figures for all the quarters.

2. The Best Value Performance Ind icators for English authorities for

2002/3 are audited figures. Audited figures for Scotland and Wales

are not yet available.

3. The statistics cover the following areas of performance:

- average time for processing new claims: this indicator measures the

average processing time in calendar days across all new claims for

which the date of decision is within the quarter. The time for

each claim is measured from the date of receipt of the claim at any

of the local authorities' offices to the date a decision on the claim is made.

- average number of days for processing written changes of


- percentage of renewal claims processed on time

- percentage of cases calculated correctly. This indicator measures

the percentage of cases within a random sample for which the

calculation of benefit is found to be correct on the basis of the

information available to the decision

- percentage of new claims decided within 14 days of receipt of the

local authority receiving all necessary information

- percentage of new rent allowance claims paid where the first

payment is made on time

4. Benefit claims may be more numerous or more complicated in areas


- there is a high proportion of applications from people who live at

two or more addresses during the year

- there is a high proportion of applications from people in privately

rented accommodation, where the application process is more complex

- there are more people in shared accommodation

5. The department is working with a large proportion of the councils

with the longest processing times to try and ensure improvements are



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