Agenda item

Performance Report (Standing Item)

To receive the latest Operational Performance Report.

Minutes:

Operational Performance

 

The Strategic Manager presented the performance report for February 2011 which had been circulated electronically.

 

The partnership continued to work hard to provide an excellent service and had recently met with South Cambridgeshire District Council who had requested we provide help and advice to them for providing a better service to Registered Providers.

 

Indicator NI181 was amber for all three authorities and was unlikely to go green by the end of the financial year.  It was noted that the target of 5 days was extremely challenging and although it was unlikely to be met, it would not be far out.  ARP staff had worked hard to achieve the current performance with the extra work involved with SEBC joining the partnership.

 

It was noted that the performance figures would be amended from April to show a breakdown of overpayments to separate those due to fraud, and to show the amount of money/number of cases rather than a percentage, as agreed in the previous meeting.  It was also noted that recovery of large fraud overpayments was often slow as recovery from ongoing Housing Benefit was restricted to £12 per week.

 

The Strategic Partnership Manager said that it was still possible that East Cambs could meet the 5 day target for NI181 but there were still problems with Council Tax collection.

 

Although staff at ARP were working hard to reduce NI181 across all three authorities there had been a higher number of new claims for Forest Heath received pro rata.  Council Tax for Forest Heath was still a problem despite a recent Direct Debit Campaign.

 

Lesley Walker (ARP Income Manager) explained the ongoing Council Tax recovery strategy and current procedures:

 

  • There had been a new Bailiff contract which was working well and had increased bailiff collection.
  • Focusing on getting bills correct at first issue and reviewing discounts and exemptions.  This has involved working with the USAF to review 6000 class P exemptions and the exercise had left the partnership just 2000 to review individually.
  • Emails to promote DD take up and DD prize draw promotion.
  • Single Person Discount review with Annual Billing

 

A private company had offered a solution for identifying new properties but a sample data match they had provided had not found any significant data to work with.  There was also a meeting on 15 April 2011 to discuss a County wide Single Person Review funded by Cambridge County.  This was done for Forest Heath this year as a Suffolk wide exercise.

 

Lesley Walker requested that East Cambs had the same facilities for taking telephone payments as Breckland and Forest Heath.  Cllr F Brown suggested that this would be part of the new East Cambs front of house arrangement but Sharon Jones questioned that there may be IT issues.

 

Members questioned the re-profiling for Forest Heath that had taken place and would be delaying some recovery until February and March 2011 – how confident were ARP that collection rates would catch up?  Lesley Walker had extrapolated figures from expected DD collection and bailiff payments that suggested 2% collection over the month.

 

Mr W Smith asked for a breakdown of the £20,000 overpayments and it was agreed that they would be identified and details provided to Members.<1>

 

Mr W Smith commented that the reduction in Council Tax arrears did not seem to change which meant a loss of income and interest.  Sharon Jones explained that ARP tried not to write off arrears and were doing more than ever before to try to collect them, including more use of Bailiffs, and current year collection was always a priority.  Sharon Jones suggested that ARP needed to identify which years the arrears apply to as ARP policy was to carry arrears forward.  Some may be over 16 years old and ARP were currently applying for some of the older arrears to be written off.

 

Sharon Jones explained that most Local Authorities wrote off arrears when changing ICT Systems.  Breckland had not done this for 16 years and ARP did not systematically write off arrears as some took years to recover.

 

ARP had recently started using Charging Orders for collection of Council Tax arrears.  As this process had only been implemented this year cases were chosen carefully (mainly landlords) to ensure they were not sensitive, to prevent making people homeless.  ARP liaised with Legal in all cases and undertook full investigations to reduce the possibility of bad publicity.

 

The Chairman questioned whether ARP could obtain the information on new properties that the private company offered a solution for.  Lesley Walker explained that ARP worked closely with the planning department and used Visiting Officers but the Chairman asked if there was software available to identify utility bills and a Member commented that planning information was not reliable and information needed to come from building control.

 

Lesley Walker explained that Academy had a separate module which recorded and monitored new builds and the Visiting Officers had started work on identifying the information required to ensure they were all picked up.  This exercise had been put on hold but would be resumed after April 2011.  There was no legal system that allowed data matching for all customers.

 

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