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By Kate Miller ...
By Kate Miller

The Department for Work and Pensions will stop treating local authorities as 'naughty children' when it comes to housing benefit issues, Paul Howarth, head of the housing support division at the DWP, promised the IRRV annual conference in Bournemouth yesterday.

He acknowledged that government had often regarded local authorities as the junior partner, changing the rules without consulting them and penalizing them for mistakes. This attitude was changing and the government wanted to work in equal partnership, he said.

After a year of radical change in benefits, with the introduction of tax credits and pension credits and the launch of many housing benefit reforms, the pace of change would accelerate still more, he said.

'We're beginning to win the argument - in the DWP, in local government and in Whitehall generally - that housing benefit matters,' Mr Howarth said. 'But the more people are interested in it, the more they are likely to want to change it.'

Mr Howarth believed that the drive to simplify unnecessary housing benefit rules and to improve administration was starting to bear fruit and delegates agreed.

Ministers were very grateful to local authorities for the way councils have helped ease the difficult introduction of tax and pension credits, he added.

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