Agenda item

Universal Credit (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 6)

To receive a verbal update.

Minutes:

The Head of Shared Services provided a verbal update as the information was subject to change.

 

She drew attention to the following points:

 

·   The Welfare Reform Bill would introduce a cap to ensure that couples would receive a maximum of £500 and single people no more than £385 of Benefits.  Local Authorities would administer the payments, but details were not yet known.

·   £13 million extra funding would be provided over four years to Local Authorities to support tenants in too large properties who wished to move.  

·   The Chartered Institute of Housing would work with social landlords as the DWP accepted that there were not enough small properties available and that tenants might need to consider taking in a lodger.

·   From April 2013 claimants with too many rooms would receive a 15% reduction in Housing Benefit.

·   The Minister was looking to see if the Discretionary Housing Payment could be extended to meet the shortfall.

·   Six Pilots were being run to test key elements of direct payment of housing costs of working-age tenants across all tenure types.

·   Universal Credit would be fully rolled out in 2017 and final administration arrangements would be determined by 2015.

·   ICT for Universal Credit would be in place by 2013 to give a six months testing period before ‘go live’.  It was expected that 80% of customers would use the on-line system.

·   The Pilot for the Real Time HMRC system would begin in April 2012 with all employers using the system directly from October 2013

·   The software suppliers were pressing the Government for more details as time was running out to prepare for the new system.

·   Proposals for the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) were being considered.  Initially it had been intended to TUPEE fraud investigation staff to the new organisation from 2013 but now other options were being considered:

-        Option 1 - LA investigators employed on benefit fraud working under SFIS powers, policies processes and priorities

-        Option 2 – LA Investigators employed on Fraud but formally seconded to the SFIS powers, policies, processes and priorities

-        Option 3 – LA Investigation staff become DWP employees based in LA offices working under SFIS powers, policies, processes and priorities

-        Option 4 – LA Investigation staff become part of the DWP as employees in DWP offices under SFIS powers, policies, processes and priorities.

The Head of Finance (East Cambs) advised that she had received information that afternoon that Option 1 had been accepted as the preferred option.

·   Pensioners in receipt of Benefits would be no worse off, but the Local Authorities would receive 10% less funding so this was likely to impact on other local tax payers.  There was currently no definition of ‘pensioners’.

·   Other vulnerable groups might also receive protection, but there was no definition of vulnerable available yet.

·   Definitions for Localised Council Tax Support would be different from those in Universal Credit.

·   The Select Committee had raised concerns about ‘demand led’ benefit being paid from a fixed, reduced budget.

·   Council Tax increases above a certain limit (to be notified soon) would require a referendum.  Regulations would be passed in February 2012 ready for referendums for the 2012/13 tax making progress.  

 

No other details were currently available.  A further update would be provided at the next meeting.

 

Members were concerned about the lack of detail and the possible implications on budget and work capacity.

 

After some discussion it was determined that a briefing paper should be prepared, setting out the concerns of the ARP.  Ministers and the press should then be invited in the New Year to receive a presentation on how well the ARP was doing and to hear the concerns of the Partnership.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(1)               Officers should prepare a briefing paper, spelling out the concerns of the Partnership, for distribution to Members before Christmas;

(2)               The Officers Improvement Board to set a date to invite Ministers and the press to visit the ARP in the New Year; and

(3)               A presentation be prepared to show Ministers the potential for the ARP to work as a regional hub.