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Flintshire County Council (Benefit Fraud Inspectorate)

Work and Pensions written statement – made on 5th April 2005.

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Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection report on Flintshire county council was published today and copies have been placed in the Library.

In 2003–04, Flintshire county council administered some £26.5 million in housing benefits, about 10 per cent. of its gross revenue expenditure. In the final quarter of 2003–04 the council was taking 89 days on average to process new claims to housing benefits against the Standard of 36 days. This performance placed it in the bottom quartile of performance.

BFI found that the council had bought a new benefits IT system in November 2003 but had some difficulty implementing it and this led to backlogs of work. The council had cleared these by June 2004 but in doing so training and the development of effective management information were neglected. By October 2004 Flintshire county council was processing new claims in 70 days, a useful improvement but still almost twice the standard time. Significant problems remain with the IT system and these must be addressed urgently. While the benefits service is integral to the council's corporate aims, objectives and targets for it were not prioritised, job descriptions did not reflect staff duties and lines of responsibility for benefits staff were not clear.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and may ask the council for its proposals in response to the BFPs findings.