Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Suite. View directions

Contact: Committee Section  Email: committee.section@gravesham.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

14.

Apologies

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Cllr Mulheran. Cllr John Caller substituted. 

 

15.

To sign the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday, 23 September 2021 were signed by the Chair.

 

16.

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.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

 

17.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee was presented with information on the existing Council Tax Reduction Scheme and asked to note the work undertaken on the review of the current Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme.

 

The Head of Revenue & Benefits guided Members through the report and drew their attention to key points concerning the Scheme, its aims, the additional protections in place, how the Scheme would be easier to understand and what was in place to protect claimants from exceptional hardship. More detailed information was available in the report from pages 11-14. 

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits assured Members that pension age households would not be affected by the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits further updated Members on the progress made on the review of the existing Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

·         The consultation document was finalised on 20 October 2021 and consultation commenced on Friday 22 October 2021

·         Any individual claimants that experienced hardship from the changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme would be able to apply for support from the Exceptional Hardship Fund

·         The proposed timetable for the consultation was 9 weeks from Friday 22 October 2021 to Friday 24 December 2021. Once it had been approved by Cabinet and Full Council at the budget setting meeting on Tuesday, 22 February 2022 then calculation and production of 2022-2023 Council Tax bills including the approved CTRS would commence from Wednesday, 23 February 2021

·         The consultation had been live for just over four weeks and two hundred responses had been received already; the Head of Revenues & Benefits had spoken with the person hosting the server for the consultation and he had advised that it was a very good response considering how early in the consultation it was

·         The Head of Revenues & Benefits had received the contact information from the Community Involvement Officer for various third party organisations that may have more information about certain groups of people to consult and the best method to reach them. The Head of Revenues & Benefits had scheduled those meetings in the near future

·         The team had taken a high number of calls regarding the consultation and had provided assistance to them over the phone

·         The team were conscious of digital poverty and had sent hard copies of the documents out to certain groups to make it easier for them to respond

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits encouraged all Members to contact their residents and ensure that they were aware of the consultation and the need for them to compete it. The Revenues & Benefits Team were there to assist, and the Head of Revenues & Benefits asked that Members refer any resident or groups who were having trouble completing the document to the service.

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits fielded questions from Members and explained that:

 

·         The service was not monitoring the types of people that were responding to the consultation as the responses were fed to a hosted server however Members should be assured that invites would be issued to every single existing claimant  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

LIFT - Outcomes Update pdf icon PDF 109 KB

Minutes:

The Committee was provided with information on outcomes to date from the Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT).

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits undertook a demonstration of the LIFT system at the previous Committee so that Members were aware of how the system worked and the types of information it stored. Since that meeting, further information had been collected and it was the intention of the Head of Revenues & Benefits to bring regular reports on the outcomes of interventions using the LIFT system to the Committee.

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits directed Members attention to page 44 of the report and updated Members on the progress of the three objectives of the system:

 

  • Objective 1: To gain a better understanding of the low-income cohort in the Borough
  • Objective 2: Fewer people in financial crisis in the Borough
  • Objective 3: Improve Council Tax recovery

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits fielded questions from Members and explained that:

 

  • Behaviour change techniques were cost effective techniques that we used to encourage people to undertake certain behaviours; those techniques were used in the letters sent out to residents as a way of making it more likely that residents would become interested and read the whole letter instead of glancing at it and throwing it away. An example of the technique was the inclusion of box with a bold border, grey background and certain wording that caught their attention such as ‘X amount of people receive a Council Tax reduction, should you be included?’. In the past, behaviour change techniques had been used by the Head of Revenues & Benefits and it actually improved Council Tax collection rates. The team would measure the success of the techniques by measuring the response rate of the new intervention letter compared to the standard letter    
  • The system had already identified that there were 66 households with 47 children in relative poverty that would be negatively affected by the proposed Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Having been identified already, those households would be proactively worked with to support them through the Exceptional Hardship Fund
  • The Head of Revenues & Benefits was initially disappointed in the take up of Discretionary Housing Payments as seventeen potential claimants had been identified but as of today, only five had claimed the payments. The low take up meant that the Service needed to be more proactive and engage with those potential claimants. Officers would look to send out further full case reviews to determine if there had been any change of circumstances at the households
  • The funding for Discretionary Housing Payments had increased this year from £162K to £252K; the reason for the increase was due to the Service spending every penny of the grant money every year, utilising it to its fullest potential. Due to the Councils success in spending the grant money, Gravesham was one of the few Councils that were awarded an additional £90K
  • The Discretionary Housing Payments were there to assist residents with short term financial hardship; they gave people the chance, for example, to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Annual review of the Information Governance Shared Service pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee was provided with a copy of the annual review that has been conducted in respect of the Information Governance Shared Service with Medway Council.

 

The Director (Corporate Services) advised that the Council were supportive of the shared service continuing but it was recognised that there were several actions that needed to be undertaken to improve the service for the coming year:

 

  • Action taken to enhance arrangements to demonstrate the equitable allocation of resources between the partner councils. This would enable each partner to determine the use of resources available to them, effectively manage and monitor performance and to be able to demonstrate Value For Money (VFM) against those work programmes

 

  • Develop a suite of KPIs to demonstrate achievement of expected performance standards and VFM of the Shared Service in future years

 

Cllr Hills praised the Service and also praised the Legal Shared Service as he felt the newly appointed officers had vastly improved the level of service received.

 

The Chair thanked the Director (Corporate Services) for her report.

 

20.

Corporate Performance Report: Q2 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 87 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

The Committee was presented with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the Council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter Two 2021-22 (July to September 2021).

 

The Head of Revenues & Benefits directed Members attention to appendix two, gave a statistical overview of the Councils performance indicators that pertained to his service and advised the Committee on the latest updates:

 

PI23 - Average processing time taken for Housing Benefit claims (days)

 

  • The quarter two processing time was 14.2 days which wasn’t as strong as last year (13.8 days) but nationally Councils hadn’t been performing as quickly on turnaround time due to the additional work that the Service had to undertake
  • The national average for processing new claims was 20 days; Gravesham were 5.8 days ahead of the national average
  • The average processing time for KCC District Councils was also 20 days

 

PI 24 - Average processing time for changes of circumstance in Housing Benefit claims (days)

 

·         As at end of October, the average processing time for 5.5 days which showed a downward trend

·         The national average was 7 days and the average processing time for KCC District Councils was also 7 days

·         The service was in the top quartile for most accurate claim processing turnaround times; far higher than the national average

·         As at the end of October, Council Tax collection stood at 65.5% and Business Rates Collection had decreased by 5% from last year’s figures. The decrease in Business Rates Collection was due to the Government changing the Retail Discount Scheme on 01 July 2021 from 100% relief to 66% relief. The Council had to rebill all businesses and charge them for the additional 34% from July 2021 onwards; in order to assist businesses with the additional payments, their bills were spread out to the end of March 2022

·         The collection had also been affected by limited court dates being made available as courts were clearing the backlog of court cases deferred due to the pandemic. However, the council has obtained additional court dates recently to enable movement of recovery action to a more formal stage for appropriate cases.

PI 26 - Total number of reported corporate complaints

 

·         Of the 79 complaints received in quarter two, only three went to stage three complaints

  • In line with the Local Government Ombudsmen recommendation and other local authorities, from Q3 the number of stages involved in the process will reduce from three to two; there will no longer be a Stage Three (Chief Executive) response
  • It was recognised that a proportion of the complaints received could actually be considered as service user requests

 

PI 50 - Total number of people signed up to citizens access

 

·         There were 10681 users of citizens access; a 69% increase from this time last year

 

PI 49 - % of posts involved in shared service arrangements

 

·         All officers and nearly all Members had been transferred over to Microsoft Office 365 with positive feedback reported

·         Members were encouraged to report any concerns or requests for additional training to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.