East Lothian Council to speed up claim clearance times in its housing
benefit and council tax benefit services.
'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.