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The detailed action plan demanded by Sheffield City Council from CSL specifying exactly how the company will clear ...
The detailed action plan demanded by Sheffield City Council from CSL specifying exactly how the company will clear the housing benefits backlog by May will be put to councillors today with the recommendation by independent consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers that the plan should be approved.

Executive director of housing and direct services Joanne Roney will,

however, remind both CSL and members of today's performance review

committee that the council will hit CSL with further penalties if the plan fails.

'I will be asking councillors to approve the rectification plan on the

recommendation of PWC,' she said. 'But I would warn CSL that I and other senior officers will be holding them to account every step of the way.'

This is the second rectification plan submitted by CSL to clear the housing benefits backlog built up since the company won the contract to run the service in June last year. The first was rejected by councillors and council officers at a meeting on February 3 on the grounds that it was too insubstantial. The advice from PWC is that the revised plan is workable.

CSL has also advised the council that the company itself has invested a further£1m in making the contract work.

The revised action plan includes a detailed timetable against which specific actions and targets, both weekly and monthly, can be measured. Council members and officers will monitor the progress again on a weekly and monthly basis.

Also in the rectification plan are details of how CSL's workforce planning and resources will be geared up and dedicated to meeting the deadlines set, which will see the most outstanding claims processed first. (Fast-track systems already in operation to process immediate problems for the most vulnerable and homeless claimants will continue.)

Members of today's review committee will also hear a report of a meeting of all local authorities employing CSL and other housing benefit contractors who are experiencing difficulties across the country.

The report will show that Sheffield City Council has been the toughest of all the local authorities in its negotiations with CSL and is the only one to have secured a fully detailed rectification plan from the company with identifiable targets.

'There is a national crisis in housing benefits and the whole service needs an overhaul by central government,' said Peter MacLoughlin, chair of housing and direct services. 'Meanwhile we in Sheffield are determined to be as robust as possible when it comes to ensuring that housing benefits claimants in this city do not suffer any further.'

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