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Freud issues benefit funding pledge

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Welfare reform minister Lord Freud has sought to reassure local authorities that they will be paid for their housing benefit responsibilities next year.

Chief executives have been informed that the 2014-15 administration costs of benefit offices dealing with housing claims will be paid despite the ongoing roll-out of universal credit.

In a letter sent at the end of last week and released by the Department for Work & Pensions on Monday, Lord Freud said: “I recognise that you need a degree of certainty for planning purposes. I would like to reassure you that we will maintain the level of funding required to manage the full administration of Housing Benefit in 2014 to 2015.”

The reassurance comes amidst uncertainty about how the department intends to manage the migration of housing benefit claimants, which is handled by councils, to the ‘universal credit’ single payment, which will be managed by the DWP.

There has been particular concern about what the transfer will mean for benefits staff and the funding provided to benefits departments by DWP.

However, sceptical local government officials questioned whether they would get “full” funding from DWP in 2014-15.

Referring to the exact wording of Lord Freud’s letter, one revenues and benefits manager who did not want to be named said: “I am not sure that that means we are going to get the full amount we usually get.”

A spokeswoman for DWP told LGC exact figures for 2014-15 funding were not available.

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