An inspection team gave the service two stars* because the council tax collection rate is among the top 25% of similar councils, claims for housing and council tax benefit are being dealt with quickly, and help points at Burgess Hill and East Grinstead provide contact points for customers living outside Haywards Heath. However, service standards have not been published and there are no council policies on anti poverty and social inclusion.
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
The service has developed clear aims that link to wider council objectives.
There are good collection rates of council tax and business rates and the speed of processing benefit work is improving.
The review made good use of consultation and challenge.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
There are delays in sending appeals.
Although targets are set to help drive improvement, some need to be more challenging and customer focused.
The links to wider council objectives to help disadvantaged people are hampered by the lack of corporate policies in this area.
The best value review did not fully explore whether there were better ways to provide the service.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
Improving access to the service for the disadvantaged by using feedback from users.
Enhancing customer service by reviewing customer service points for wait times and implementing queuing systems.
Ensuring customers understand the level of service that they can expect by publishing meaningful performance standards.
The service is estimated to cost £1.7m for 2002/03 and is provided directly by the council. There are 53 staff employed to carry out these functions at Haywards Heath and two part-time help points at East Grinstead and Burgess Hill.
Copies of the report are available from Mid Sussex District Council or on the Audit Commission website here.