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IRRV CONF: YOUNG DAMNS BERESFORD FOR GOING TOO FAR ON CCT

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The government's plans to reform the white-collar CCT regime would have a devastating affect on benefit administrat...
The government's plans to reform the white-collar CCT regime would have a devastating affect on benefit administration and revenue collection, IRRV president Gil Young said in his opening address to conference.

In a robust attack on environment minister Sir Paul Beresford's plans, Mr Young said the proposals had 'simply gone too far'.

'No justification for the increase in the competition requirements to 65% has been forthcoming,' he said.

Mr Young argued that changes would not even be an advantage to the private sector. 'Whatever the minister may say . . . the market for finance services is undeveloped.'

He said there was insufficient evidence of the private sector's ability to run benefit and revenue collection services. 'I am not saying that in all circumstances such arrangements are bad. But I am strongly of the view . . . that contracts which are essentially 'forced' contracts will not work.'

Mr Young pointed out that this view was increasingly shared by many in the 'responsible private sector'.

'Even if they produce short-term loss-leader savings, the long-term impact, both in terms of cost and in terms of service delivery, could be and will be substantial,' he said.

Mr Young questioned the thrust behind recent legislation which clears the way for councils to contract out benefits administration, saying the notion that such a sensitive service could be reduced down to a simple contract was 'still a highly dubious one'.

He challenged the government's assertion that the few examples where councils had contracted out benefits were justification for all authorities to go down this road. 'We are being asked to believe that arrangements which may be appropriate in a handful of small shire district councils and outer London boroughs may actually be capable of being implemented in some of our largest metropolitan authorities.'

Mr Young asked whether the private sector could effectively tackle fraud, which requires co-operation between public authorities. 'We are very worried this co-operation could be damaged if housing benefit administration were fragmented between different contractors.'

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