Publishing its report today (see below) the Department of Work and Pensions says Bedford is 'the first authority to reach this standard as a result of a BFI inspection'.
BFI inspected the council's administration of housing benefit, council tax benefit and counter-fraud activities against national performance standards, including strategic management, customer services, claim processing, work with landlords, counter fraud, control of overpayments and internal security. It was this in-depth assessment which led to the BFI announcing that Bedford's benefit service is excellent.
Announcing the report, the DWP says: 'The report notes a great deal of commitment and professionalism in Bedford Borough Council and a determination throughout the organisation to maintain the high level of performance achieved.'
Shaun Field, Bedford BC chief executive, said: 'I'm delighted with this report which demonstrates that this council is providing services at the very highest standard for the people of this borough'. He praised staff involved in the benefits service saying, 'their commitment to achieving high targets has made this possible.'
BENEFIT FRAUD INSPECTORATE (BFI) REPORT: BEDFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL
Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson today
published an inspection report by the BFI on the administration of
housing benefit and council tax benefit and counter-fraud activity by
Bedford BC. The council was performing at an excellent
standard and becomes the first authority to reach this standard as a
result of a BFI inspection.
BFI inspected the council against the performance standards, the
council was at standard for five functional areas - strategic
management, customer services, processing of claims, working with
landlords and counter-fraud and above standard for two functional
areas - overpayments and internal security.
Works and pensions minister Chris Pond said: 'I welcome BFI's report
as it records the outstanding effort made by Bedford Borough Council
to reach the department's standard by delivering a better service to
BFI director Chris Bull said:
'I was very pleased that we were
invited to inspect Bedford, as Shaun Field, the chief executive,
believed they were providing an excellent benefits Service. The
authority has made some drastic improvements to processing times very
quickly and these improvements have been sustained. I very much hope
that our report will prove helpful to other local authorities facing
difficult challenges. In addition to some new working practices, the
report illustrates that clear leadership, staff involvement in
agreeing goals and comprehensive planning and monitoring are the
basic building blocks for success.'
In 2003/04, Bedford BC administered some£37m in
housing benefits, about 52 per cent of its gross revenue expenditure.
BFI carried out the on-site phase of the inspection in September
The standard for processing new claims and changes of circumstances
is 36 and 9 days respectively. Bedford BC improved its
processing times for new claims and changes of circumstances from 68
and 18 days in March 2003 to 26 and 6 days in September 2003. This
was achieved by providing a clear commitment to reach and maintain
top quartile performance and the processing times have been
The report notes a great deal of commitment and professionalism in
Bedford Borough Council and a determination throughout the
organisation to maintain the high level of performance achieved.
The process for the inspection at Bedford Borough Council included
an initial fact finding stage, an on-site visit, and production and
clearance of the report. The on-site visit took place during
The inspection report can be found on the BFI website.