Performance and Service Updates (Standing Item) (Agenda item 5)
- Meeting of Anglia Revenues & Benefits Joint Committee, Tuesday, 8th December, 2020 11.00 am (Item 66/20)
Report of Stuart Philpot, ARP Strategic Manager (Support).
Stuart Philpot, the Strategic Manager (Support Services) ARP presented the performance and service update report and highlighted the following areas:
Council Tax Collection
The Council Tax collection rates for all partners had reduced due to the pandemic.
Two rounds of ‘soft reminders’ had been sent out to customers which had had a positive effect on collections.
In October 2020, statutory reminders had been issued. Magistrate Courts had re-opened and would be in session during December and as such Court Hearings had been booked for all authorities.
Fraud and Compliance
£1.5m of fraud had been identified with the majority being due to single persons discounts non-compliance.
Business Rates Collection
All revised targets had been achieved with the exception of East Suffolk showing a £1.7m collection target shortfall. However, since the publication of the report, East Suffolk had collected a further £1.2m reducing the shortfall to £500k under collection target.
For Fenland DC refunds were still outstanding in respect of the NHS Trusts pending appeals.
The Fraud Team had assisted and had been involved with checking the due diligence in respect of the Covid-19 grants for NNDR.
All enforcement visits had been suspended from March to August 2020 due to the pandemic and although the collection rates had since risen, with face-to-face visits now resumed, they were not back to the levels that had been collected the previous year. The Enforcement Team were taking all the necessary precautions in respect of PPE and risk assessments.
ARP Systems and Digital
There had been a significant increase in activity on the ARP website due to the offices being closed for face- to-face visits – up to 60% compared to 2019.
A more collaborative relationship with Capita had been demonstrated recently with the implementation of Total Mobile Software to aid the visiting officers in their work.
Members were then invited to ask questions.
Referring to fraud and compliance, Councillor French felt that the amount of fraud was quite concerning in respect of single persons discounts and asked how ARP was notified of such fraudulent activities.
In response, Members were informed that such information was captured through the Norfolk Fraud Information hub and through random checks that were carried out but it could also be captured from notifications from neighbours, friends and even family.
Councillor French assumed that such claimants would have other people living with them and asked how many days a person was allowed to reside at the same property before the single persons discount was removed.
Adrian Mills, the Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) ARP explained that a person had to live at the property for a substantial part of the week, any less would be classed as casual. There were checks and balances in place to eliminate such fraudulent activities.
The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Ambrose-Smith referred to benefits and the Government funding of £500 that had been awarded to claimants who had to self-isolate. Within the report he had noted that the demand would outstrip the funding and asked what would happen with this going forward.
The Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) ARP advised that the Test & Trace Self Isolation £500 payments were currently scheduled to continue until 31 January 2021; however, the Government was considering an extension to these grants until the end of March 2021. Furthermore, additional programme funding and discretionary funding to meet demand was also being considered as well as the administrative burden on local authorities in terms of coping and distributing this additional funding. Conversations were still on-going. The current demand for the Partnership areas had been at the level forecasted by the Government unlike other parts of the country where such funding had already been outstripped. It was noted that the funding was monitored weekly with the S151 Officers within the Partnership.
The Chairman was pleased that the automated services were increasing year on year.
The report was otherwise noted.