Agenda item

Performance Reports (Standing Item) (Agenda item 8)

Report by Adrian Mills, Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) ARP.


Adrian Mills, Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) presented the reports.


He was pleased to report that all partner authorities combined for 2020/2021 were on target; however, the Council Tax collection rates for Breckland, East Suffolk and Fenland DCs were behind target, due to the magistrate’s courts not being open at the time and therefore reducing the amount that could have been collected.


The Enforcement Team had also recently taken on the collection of parking fines for East and West Suffolk Council’s and were due to receive its first cases shortly.


With effect from March 2020, all recovery actions were temporarily suspended until the summer and therefore the amount collected through these actions had been less than in the last financial year. Income of £680K in total had been received this financial year compared to £1.37M last year.


The 3 March 2021 budget, the Government announced that retail, hospitality and leisure relief would be extended into the 2021/22 financial year but from 1 July 2021 would be reduced to 66%.  Revised bills would be issued in June 2021 to reduce the rate relief to 66%.


For Council Tax, the Team had completed 17.5% more documents this year compared to last year yet outstanding work had been below the highest levels it reached the previous year.


The Council Tax Support Hardship Fund awards were issued to every qualifying working age customer by the end of July 2020 and have continued to award a payment to every entitled new working age Council Tax Support customer who made a claim throughout the year.  Expenditure had been closely monitored to ensure the fund for each Council had not been overspent.


Targets had been achieved for both Council Tax Support and Benefits performance, despite the increased demand attributed to COVID-19.


Throughout the year the Team had seen significant increases in claims and had increased by approximately a third on 2019/2020. In April 2020, the Local Council Tax Support schemes changed for all partners to include a 'tolerance rule' which was applied to monthly Universal Credit Data Share (UCDS) records from DWP.


The new rule meant that changes in Universal Credit of under £15.00 per week were ignored by the software system and were automatically processed. An average of just under 4000 UCDS records had been received weekly from the DWP and 53% of these had been fully automated. The introduction of the ‘tolerance’ rule had reduced the number of Council Tax Support re-assessments resulting from DWP UCDS records by 32%, which was in line with the results of modelling undertaken for the consultation. This in turn had reduced the number of Council Tax adjustment notices, contact and refund requests and allowed customers more flexibility to manage their own payments.


The COVID 19 Track & Trace Self Isolation payment scheme had been extended by 3 months to 30 June 2021.


For 2021/22 all targets combined for all partner councils were on target except for Council Tax collections for Breckland and Business Rates collections for East Cambridgeshire DC.


For enforcement, £426K had been collected in April compared to £304k at the same point last year. 


The Government had announced that they would fund further discretionary rate relief to businesses, further guidance was awaited.


In respect of benefits, performance had been achieved despite the increased demand attributed to Covid-19.


The Chairman referred to the Better Customer Journeys Programme in respect of who had set the complaint response timeframes from 28 to 21 calendar days.  Members were informed that this was a 21day target that had been set by the Customer Strategy Team.  More emphasis would be put on customer self-service sign-up which would have a quicker outcome.


Councillor Broughton asked if on-line forms were immediately uploaded onto the system.  The Strategic Manager (Billing & benefits) explained that once the forms had been validated, they were then dealt with in the ‘back office’ system for those staff to pick up.  The customer was in control of their data, but improvements were being made to this system.


The performance reports were otherwise noted.

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