Agenda item

COVID-19 Portfolio Update


The Director (Corporate Services) provided the Committee with an update against how the council has responded to the COVID pandemic, both in terms of specific activities in response to the pandemic and how the council has managed to maintain service delivery across council services.


The Head of Revenues & Benefits highlighted the following:

·         There have been fourteen  different  grant schemes concerning business and business rates  and there will be another one from 1 April 2021

·         £1.5billion will be split between Local Authorities to award in respect of those businesses affected by Covid 19. GBC should be informed how much they will receive in the next two to three weeks.

·         GBC was in the top four authorities in the country for the speed at which grants were distributed. From March 2020 to October 2020 just over £15million was distributed.

·         The second series of grants ran from November 2020 to the end of March 2021. To date £6.6million has been distributed in respect of seven grant schemes for that period.

·         The Council has undertaken the proper due diligence with the grant schemes and to date there have been no fraudulent cases detected.

·         GBC received £893,000 to pay to vulnerable people and households. The idea was to target working age claimants and provide £150 by way of credit on Council Tax. Some people were also awarded an extra £20 a week; GBC used some of the awarded money to offset the loss of benefit. To date just over 6000 claimants have received payment.

·         From 28 September 2020; anyone who received a positive Covid-19 test and was eligible was able to receive £500 Isolation Payment. To date GBC has paid out £168,000 to Gravesham residents


The Director (Corporate Services), the Head of Revenues & Benefits and the Head of Internal Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service  fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:

·         In terms of post payment assurance; the Council recently submitted data to the Cabinet Office on the first three rounds of grants and using intelligence alerts from the National Anti-fraud Network, all payments were checked against a list of bank accounts thought to be linked to organised crime, providing assurance that no payments have been issued to these particular accounts. So far no fraudulent cases have been identified despite a small handful of referrals received. The Council is also planning further post payment assurance activity.

·         The Council tried to maximise the take-up of grant schemes but some claimants didn’t meet the criteria (e.g. failing to provide evidence for self-isolation)

·         Checking that people are self-isolating does not fall within the Council’s remit.

·         Staff have been made aware that they can claim tax relief for working from home.

·         The Low Income Family Tracker is a shared initiative brought in by KCC. The product takes various data sets and GBC gains intelligence about its customers which can be used to try and make better informed strategic decisions, get better take up and

identify customers who are approaching financial crisis.

·         The Council is commencing its work to reduce the number of people in financial crisis via a pension credit take up campaign, promoting discretionary housing payments, and improving Council Tax recovery.

·         The Council will undertake a campaign for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. The Council will identify those households who are financially struggling and try and assist them.  This will help Council Tax recovery and minimise the amount of money GBC need to collect.

·         At the end of February 2021 there was £ 50,000 left in the Discretionary Housing Payment fund. The Council will work to spend every penny by next Tuesday

·         Citizens Access is an online account service for Council Tax and Business rates that allows you to check accounts, direct debits, look at balances and payments etc. The Head of Revenues & Benefits is keen to add benefits to Citizens Access as soon as possible.


The Committee noted the Covid-19 Portfolio Update and commended the excellent work of all the officers involved.


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