Agenda and minutes
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Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Peter Scollard and Cllr Narinder Singh Thandi; Cllr Lyn Milner and Cllr Peter Rayner appeared as their respective substitutes.
The minutes of the meeting held on 19 February 2019 were signed by the Chair
Declarations of interest
No declarations of interest were made.
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) provided an update to Members on current performance and changes due from 1 April 2019.
The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) highlighted the latest figures for Members, including the following:
· The average number of days to assess new benefit claims is now 18.9 and therefore under the target of 20 days. Housing Benefit claims are being processed in 17.7 days the national average was 22 days
· The average number of days to assess changes in circumstances is 4.6 days;
under the target of 5 days.
· Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP): 559 applications have been received with 314 being successful.
· DHP: 84 cases have involved helping customers with the spare room subsidy restriction
and 78 with the Local Housing Allowance restrictions.
· In May 2018, the Universal Credit (UC) full service was rolled out across the
Borough. It is now in operation throughout the whole of England and as a result
the Housing Benefit total caseload (i.e. the total number of claimants within the
Borough) has reduced from 6,551 at 1 April 2018 to 5,616 at 1 March 2019; a
reduction of 14.27%.
· Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) can be awarded to top up and assist
residents receiving UC providing the award includes an element for housing costs.
In 2018/19 17 UC cases have received a DHP.
· The Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) has been amended to allow a claim for UC to be treated as the intention to claim council tax reduction from the date of the UC claim. That information can be obtained via the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Data Hub. A claim made in this way would of course be subject to all other rules
around entitlement as a claim made directly to the Council.
· The local council tax reduction scheme for 2020/21 is currently being reviewed by
a group of officers acting on behalf of Kent. The aim is to simplify and reduce the
cost of administration of the scheme by moving away from a means tested
reduction to a banded scheme more aligned to council tax than benefits. Further
details will follow when more information is available.
· As at 26 March 2019 the collection rate for Council Tax is 96.7% the target is 97%.
· As at 26 March 2019 the collection rate for Business Rates is 98.9% the target is 99%.
· Council Tax arrears have reduced by £1.5million as at 26 March 2019, compared to those at the start of the year.
· Business Rates arrears have reduced by £800,000 as at 26 March 2019, compared to those at the start of the year.
· From 1 April 2019, local authorities are allowed to charge a 100% Council Tax
premium on long term empty homes, and by resolution of the Full Council on 26 February 2019, a decision has been taken to implement the increased premium.
· A package of business rates measures were announced in the Autumn Budget to recognise that changing consumer behaviour presents a significant challenge for retailers in our town centres. ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
Citizens Access Demonstration
The Special Projects and Systems Support Officer provided the Committee with a live demonstration of the Citizens Access Council Tax online system.
Citizens Access Council Tax is going live mid-April 2019 as a view only solution that will allow customers to view the council tax account balance, instalments due and payments made, view council tax bills for current and previous years and view any discounts or exemptions including Council Tax Reduction.
Initially it is being launched without too much publicity to allow us time to test and ensure the product works as expected in a ‘live’ environment.
However there is still the remaining functionality of Citizens Access Council Tax to implement as well as Citizens Access Business Rates and Citizens Access Benefits.
In time, it is fully anticipated that the digital solution will generate savings in paper
and postage as well as resourcing efficiencies within the team.
Following questions from the Committee; The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) and Special Projects and Systems Support Officer highlighted the following:
· Instalment payments are still set at 10 months; 12 month payments have to be applied for in writing.
· Citizens Access Council Tax is adaptable to phones and other devices.
· Emails will be sent out by the system informing customers when there is an update on their account. A text message function could be available as an extra function further down the line.
· The system also has the functionality of scanning in documents
· All Customer Services officers will have access to the new system
· The system will reduce paper, postage and phone calls but paper documents will still be available to those who request it.
The Committee thanked the Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) and Special Projects and Systems Support Officer for an informative presentation.