Agenda and minutes
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An apology for absence was received from Cllr Gary Harding.
The minutes of the meeting held on 17 September 2018 were signed by the Chair.
To declare any interest Members may have in the items contained on this agenda. When declaring an interest Members should state what their interest is.
Cllr Robert Halpin made a declaration of interest in respect the item on Universal Credit as he worked in employment support.
To considered whether any items in Part A of the agenda should be considered in private or those (if any) in Part B in public.
To present Members of the Performance and
Administration Committee with an update against the Performance
Management Framework, as set out within the council’s
Corporate Plan 2015-19, for Quarter Two 2018-19 (July –
The Corporate Performance Manager presented an update against the Performance Management Framework, as set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan 2015-19, for Quarter 2 2018/19 (July to September 2018). The report presents a suite of performance measures and indicators that directly relate to the Performance and Administration portfolio and the associated policy commitments detailed in the Council’s adopted Corporate Plan 2015-19.
Members were advised that this was a progress report and that three Performance Measures had missed their targets for the quarter and the narrative explained the background to this. However, it was noted that the measures were all within National and County averages.
2. Quality frontline services delivered on time and to the right people.
Performance Measure 11 – Average Time taken to Process Housing Benefit/Council Tax New Claims (days)
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) advised that concern had previously been expressed in relation to Performance Measures 11 and 12. However, National measures related to Housing Benefit only whereas Council statistics related to Housing and Council Tax Reduction as follows:
This had been a dramatic turnaround especially taking into consideration the need to train new benefits officers.
The Assistant Revenues & Benefits Manager advised that the figures shown were joint figures and Housing Benefit claims were currently being processed in 19.8days. Processes had been put in place that worked to the strengths and weaknesses of officers making the process more efficient. It was hoped that the service would achieve its targets by the fourth quarter.
The following comments were made in relation to the above and Benefits performance indicators:
• It was noted that what had been achieved by the trainees was impressive especially given the complexity of the work involved. The Apprenticeship Levy would be used to offer the trainees the possibility of undertaking an appropriate qualification.
• Members were advised that the introduction of Universal Credit had initially caused concern and some officers had left the Council. However since the delay of the migration date, the Assistant Revenues & Benefits Manager had worked to increase morale. It was also intended to train officers to provide them with skills to work on other teams.
• Councillors noted that as the housing benefits disappears existing staff with the correct knowledge would work on this whilst new staff would be trained to work on the new systems.
3. Work to maximise income collection through the robust management and recovery of debts owed to the Council.
Performance Measure 9 – Percentage of Council Tax Collected
Performance Measure 10 – Percentage of NNDR Collected
It was noted that Council Tax collection was on target but NNDR was not. However performance fluctuated from month to month and Members appreciated it was the final outturn figure that was important.
Performance Indicator 42 – Total Amount of Housing Benefit Overpayments Raised
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) advised that, as previously discussed, the indicators had been changed from percentage measurement to monetary values which had proved more ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
To inform Members of the Performance &
Administration Committee of the council’s involvement in
partnerships that are within the remit of the committee.
Members were advised of the Council’s involvement in partnerships that were within the remit of the Committee.
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) advised that the partnerships were reviewed annually and there were two partnerships that fell within the remit of the Committee. The Audit and Counter Fraud shared service outcomes were being achieved, costs were being reduced, with resilience and flexibility being increased. Members of the team were learning the different roles within the Team and the audit programme was being delivered despite the challenges of some long term sickness absence.
The Revenues and Benefits shared management arrangements with Tonbridge & Malling had previously been discussed by the Committee with work being undertaken to benefit both the councils involved.
Resolved that the report be noted.
Universal Credit - Oral Update
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) circulated an update paper on Universal Credit (attached as an appendix to these minutes) and welcomed Evelyn Cook – Deputy Chief Executive Officer from Citizens Advice North and West Kent to the meeting. The Committee was informed that Gravesham had been on Universal Credit (UC) since 30 May 2018 and this meant that UC was available to all claimants with the exception of some categories.
· Following a question with regard to the mitigation with regards to direct payments to landlords, it was noted that the rules had been relaxed and applicants could request that the rent part of the UC be paid direct to a landlord. A landlord could also request this measure and consideration was based on vulnerability or risk of arrears. The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) had advised staff to prompt residents to ask for their rent to be paid direct at the point of claiming.
· Members were advised that the BBC Panorama programme had recently given a good overview of UC and had highlighted that the key issue was the lack of money management skills of recipients.
· The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) confirmed that the time from UC application submission and payment was 5 weeks.
Evelyn Cook advised that Citizens Advice (CA) provided a daily service from 10am to 2pm from Monday to Friday, to assist people who could not manage apply for UC themselves. CA also provided additional digital and personal budgeting training. She commented that the UC was paid to one member of a family. Applicants were advised, when they saw their first work coach, to ask for an advance payment when applying for UC and there had been a slight increase in the numbers of people saying they had no money. It was perceived that UC had two issues being the delay in payment and that people would be worse off than they were now as UC subjected people to more conditions and it was felt that there would be an increase in poverty to 2 to 3 years’ time.
The following comments were made:
· It was noted that someone who had just left their job had to wait before receiving UC as they would have their wages. There were also issues when people lost their paperwork or simply did not know how the UC process worked.
· In relation to food banks, it was noted that payment delays in the old and new systems have increased the use of these facilities.
· Members were advised that Essex County Council would be closing 50 to 60% of library services. It was noted that people could access computers in libraries. However, the Committee was informed that most people now had a smart phone. If a person did not have a smart phone or a computer, Citizen’s Advice directed them to the JobCentre. Applications for UC could be made over the telephone but the DWP discouraged this. Citizens Advice always asked if a person had family or friends who could help. ... view the full minutes text for item 37.
Any other business which by reason of special circumstances the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.