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1 Aug 2017

London councils dispute poor housing benefit performance

London councils have hit back at official figures which suggest they are under-performing against the government’s expectations for reduction of overpayments in housing benefit bills. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Statistics published last week by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) record councils' performance in reducing overpayment of housing benefit. Overpayments occur where a tenant is given more benefits than they are entitled to due to fraud or an administrative error.

The statistics show for each council the amount of reductions the DWP expects to be achieved. The DWP calculates this by grouping residents according to their statistical likelihood of receiving an overpayment in benefits. The DWP then records the value of reductions actually achieved in each local authority and scores each council with a percentage. Figures for the financial year 2016/17 were released last week, revealing that London councils make up the overwhelming majority of councils who are struggling to meet expectations.

Hackney Council scored the lowest percentage (53%). There, the bill was reduced by £1.6m, compared to the government’s expectation of £3m.

Philip Glanville, mayor of Hackney, told Inside Housing:
The council has no comment to make on the validity of the DWP’s estimated reduction target, although it is of note that no English authority has achieved 100% of their estimated amount. Perhaps the DWP should be more focused, as Hackney is, on the impact that the imposed benefit freezes and cuts have had on vulnerable people, than exercises such as this.
The other nine in the bottom 10 were, from lowest to highest were Enfield, Westminster, Newham, Camden, Barnet, Brent, Wirral, Wandsworth and Islington.

A spokesperson for Westminster City Council said:
The council insists on strict verification standards before new claims are put into payment and employs determination officers to check assessments before they are processed. We believe this means less fraud and error is entering the system than would otherwise be the case, which in turn explains why the level of identified reductions is lower than the target DWP has set.

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