Agenda item

Corporate Performance Report: Q4 2021-22


The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) and the Head of Internal Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service presented Members of the Performance and Administration Committee with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter Four 2021-22 (January to March 2022).


The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) highlighted the following:


PI 23 – Average processing time taken for Housing Benefit claims (days)

This is 16.4 days compared to 14.6 in Q3 and 12.4 in Q4 of the previous year. However, putting this into context the council, along with a number of other authorities, have been under considerable pressure with various grant schemes and household support funds but we remain better than the national average of 19.0 days and Kent districts are averaging 18.0 days. At the end of May we were processing claims at 20.8 days.


PI 24 – Average processing time for changes of circumstances in Housing Benefits claims (days)

This is 4.4 days which is a drop on the previous quarter. At the end of May it was 7 days.


Council tax collection rates are 20%, 0.09 down on this time last year.

Business rates collection is 23.6% and increase of 5%.


PI 26 – Corporate Complaints

At the end of Q4 complaints had decreased to 36 which is half of what it was during the same quarter in the previous year. The complaints are evenly spread across the areas and Management Team do not feel any intervention is required at this time. There were also 80 compliments during Q4 primarily due to the helpfulness of staff.


PI 50 – Total number of people signed up to Citizens Access

At the end of Q4 this increased to 12,592 which is nearly 4,000 more households than the year before.


Following questions from Members of the Committee, the Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) highlighted the following:


·         The team are experiencing unprecedented pressure and share Members’ concern. We are currently making energy payments to 37,000 households on top of the daily work. We are recruiting and have new members of staff but it takes 6-12 months to train on housing benefits. We have tried to obtain further resilience and do have one person from NEC (Northgate) supporting us but unfortunately there is no other available staff. We are not alone in this problem it is affecting authorities across the district. We are looking at our processes and how we can improve with automation on tasks such as data entry. Unfortunately benefits claims are complicated and there is the need for human intervention. There is concern at the processing time of 20.8 days which is an improvement on April when it was 23 days. On top of this we have the changes to the council tax reduction scheme and that is a totally different way of working for the team. We look forward to improved performance in Q2.

·         The Service Manager to bring details to the next meeting on the impact of these delays to the individuals

·         Whilst the more straightforward cases are now dealt with by DWP that leaves the more complex cases to local authorities such as pension cases, self-employment cases

·         There are currently no grants for businesses but there are a number of reliefs and exemptions in place. The only additional payment is the retail discount and we still have the legacy of the Covid19 additional relief fund of £1.7m, £1.3m currently spent

·         A Member raised that 53% of all complaints during the last year were related to Housing DSO but in contrast a large majority of the compliments were Housing Repairs. Improvement has been made in terms of Housing Repairs due to the reorganisation within the management structure but in contrast Members receive a number of complaints from residents advising that their Housing Officers are unavailable and will only communicate via email. It is a public service where people need to have one to one conversations with their Housing Officer when they have a problem and this needs to improve as we have lost the human touch. Some residents feel we have become a remote service.


PI 49 – % of posts in shared service arrangements

This is an annual indicator. There is a slight drop on the previous year at 5.4% and is linked to changes in Revenues & Benefits and the shared working arrangements ending and some changes within HR services.


PI 55 - % of internal audit recommendations implemented

There were 63 agreed actions due for completion by the end of Q4 and as at 31 March 2022, 44 had been implemented giving an out-turn of 69.8%. As of today, six of the 19 outstanding have since been completed.


Internal Audi8t update - There were a number of vacancies and some periods of sickness which had an impact on resources giving a final plan completion out-turn for 2021-22 of 90% of the agreed assurance reviews delivered against a target of 95%. To put this into context there were two reviews still at fieldwork stage as of 31 March.


Counter Fraud update - The total savings identified during 2021-22 were £473,843. The Gravesham share of costs for the whole of the internal audit & counter fraud services in 2021-22 were £198,398 with fraud resources being around £75k of that so the savings represent excellent value for money.


PI 56 - % of information requests completed within statutory deadline

This is fairly consistent with previous years with 86% responded to within the 20 day statutory deadline.


Following questions from Members of the Committee, the Head of Internal Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service highlighted the following:


·         Members agreed that counter fraud performance continues to be excellent as are responses to FOIs

·         Revenues & Benefits shared service was different to other shared services in that it was a shared management arrangement not a full shared service. It was established that as a shared management arrangement it wasn’t feasible for one person to lead two services. An annual review of the IA&CF shared services is due to be carried out and that report will come to Committee in September. There is no intention to stop shared working arrangements at this time

·         Members were particularly impressed with the value for money delivered in terms of counter fraud and other activity

·         To clarify what we refer to when stating that a property has been recovered, sub-letting is a criminal offence and the team investigate cases of tenancy fraud as part of our activity. The Cabinet Office has done some sums and calculated that the recovery of a council property equates to a saving of £93k based on savings in terms of temporary accommodation and other costs. We record a saving, applying the Cabinet Office figures, when a property is recovered as a result of investigation activity. We are yet to prosecute anybody as there has been insufficient evidence of sub-letting but properties have been returned due to other mis-use.


The Committee noted the Corporate Performance Report: Q4 2021-22



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