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POWYS CC'S RENT COLLECTION, ARREARS & HOUSING GRANTS SERVICE 'FAIR'

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Powys CC's rent collection and arrears recovery service is described as a 'fair service that has promising prospect...
Powys CC's rent collection and arrears recovery service is described as a 'fair service that has promising prospects for improvement' in an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales.

The Audit Commission Inspection Team gave the service one star because tenants have a wide range of options for paying their rent and partnership with other agencies means that good Housing Advice is available.

Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector for England and Wales, said:

'Our report found high levels of customer satisfaction with this service provided by Powys CC.

'Whilst inconsistencies still remain in providing this service across the county, new developments such as the swipe card payments system, should help improve the service. I wish the council every success in implementing the recommendations of our report for improving the service.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Tenants can choose from a variety of options for paying their rent

- There are high levels of satisfaction with the payment methods

- Partnership with other agencies means that good housing advice is available

- The council is even handed and fair when it comes to recovering rent arrears

However, inspectors also identified areas that need attention:

- There are still inconsistencies in payment methods in the different shire areas

- Service standards haven't been set for rent collection and arrears recovery

- Former tenant arrears have been managed inconsistently

- The service doesn't pay enough attention to early preventative work

Inspectors felt that there are promising prospects for improvement in the service for the following reasons:

- The council has adopted new performance targets for the service

- The introduction of swipe cards in April will help with consistency across the service

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- The council should develop a set of service standards for rent collection and arrears

- Tenants should be given a choice of dates to pay by direct debit

- All tenants should get rent statements on a regular basis

- The council should develop a clear programme for managing the collection of former tenant arrears

Powys CC's rent collection and arrears service was provided at an estimated cost of£550,000 in 2001/02. The service is managed by the housing, environmental health and trading standards department.

Powys County Council - Housing Grants

Powys CC's housing grants service is described as 'a fair service that has promising prospects for improvement' in an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star because people who use housing grants are generally happy with the service they get, whilst the council has successfully invested over£6m a year in the housing stock in recent years.

Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector for England and Wales, said:

'Our report shows pleasing levels of customer satisfaction with the housing grants service provided by Powys CC. In addition, our inspectors found that staff are both professional and committed to the service.

However, the council should now address the need to develop service standards with users and tackle inconsistency of service between the different shire areas. We wish the service well in implementing our recommendations which will assist the process of continuous improvement.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Grants users are generally satisfied with the service

- The council has successfully invested over£6m a year for the last three years in the housing stock

- Staff are professional and committed to the service

- Grants are beginning to be allocated on the basis of need rather than when the application was received

- The council has introduced ground breaking projects such as the safe warm and secure scheme

However, inspectors also identified areas that need attention:

- The council doesn't sufficiently publicise the availability of grants

- No service standards have been developed with users

- The service is inconsistent in a number of ways between the three shires that make up Powys

- Performance management of the service is at an early stage

Inspectors felt that there are promising prospects for improvement in the service for the following reasons:

- Councillors, management and staff are clearly committed to improving the service

- Good progress has been made on implementing the new grant policy

- The restructuring of the service will help improvement

- Key planning documents are being produced

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Housing grants should be better publicised by the council

- Customer feedback should be analysed and acted upon

- There needs to be consistency countywide in administering grants

- Users should be made aware of the time it's likely to take to receive a grant

Powys CC's housing grants service was provided at a cost of£525,785 in 2000/01, but this is likely to be reduced by 10% in 2001/02 to around£480,000. The service includes home renovation grants, disabled facility grants and home repair assistance. Powys CC also supports three care and repair agencies as well as the council's three grant agencies at a cost of some£130,000 in 2000/01.

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