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Work and pensions minister Malcolm Wicks today set tough targets for ...
Work and pensions minister Malcolm Wicks today set tough targets for

East Lothian Council to speed up claim clearance times in its housing

benefit and council tax benefit services.

Malcolm Wicks said:

'Anyone claiming housing benefit or council tax benefit should expect

a fast and efficient service. Local people have to wait far too long

to get their benefits. Following two inspections, East Lothian

Council still needs to make vital improvements so their customers can

get the service they deserve.

'I recognise that the council has now taken steps to improve the

service since their second inspection report, but they clearly need

to do more work. The direction I have given today will help them to

focus on making their service better for their customers.

'This direction is not to be taken lightly. That is why I have told

the council to make improvements and have given them until May 2003

to reach the first target set.' The council has been directed to

clear new claims by an average of 50 days by May 2003 and an average

of 40 days by May 2004. In 2001/02 the average time for clearing new

claims was 80 days.

They must also clear 65% of renewal claims on time by May 2003 and

75% by May 2004. In 2001/02, 36% of renewal claims were cleared

before the end of the current benefit claim.


1.The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) published two reports on East

Lothian Council - the first in March 1999 and the second in September

2001. The BFI found that there was poor performance in a number of

the key areas of benefit administration, such as clearance times for

new claims and processing notifications of a change in circumstances.

2.The council has taken significant steps to improve the service

since the second report. However, the Direction will ensure the

council reaches and maintains minimum standards of performance.

3.Section 139D(3) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992

gives the secretary of state power to give directions to an Authority

to achieve future standards.

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