Delays in dealing with new housing and council tax benefits claims means some city families could find themselves still waiting for their money until after Christmas.

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Bosses at Norwich City Council have admitted that the average processing time this year for such claims has increased to 52.1 days, way over the authority’s target of 21 days.

The council this week outsourced the dealing of some of those claims to a specialist bureau in an attempt to speed up the time being taken.

But, with almost 650 claims outstanding, there is a danger some of the people waiting, who include some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens, will not get a decision on their money before Christmas.

As reported in the Evening News, City Hall staff have been working at weekends to try to clear the backlog and, in September the average time it was taking to deal with claims was cut to 45 days and to 42 days in October.

Of the 648 claims, 183 of them involve people who have been waiting beyond the council’s 21 day target.

Lucy Galvin, Green city councillor for Wensum ward, said: “The average turn around for housing benefits and council tax is still very high. “I know there’s a plan in place, but it is taking some time to work and this has an effect on people in a difficult situation.

“When the Norwich Foodbank was discussed by scrutiny recently, one of the reasons they gave for people needing the foodbank was delays in getting benefits.

“I think it’s a very important thing to tackle and to speed up the process.”

The council says part of the reason for the long turnaround times is that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also sends hundreds of automatic emails to the authority each week, informing them about changes in people’s circumstances.

Staff have had to deal with those as well as trying to clear the backlog, so the council this week agreed to use some of its budget to send those claims to a specialist bureau.

That, the council said, would free up their own staff to concentrate on tackling the delay in the new benefit claims.

But Alan Waters, deputy leader of the council, said the current economic climate meant even the best laid plans could be thrown out of kilter.

He said: “When Uniglaze went bust, straight away we had a hundred people on the phone, so you do get unexpected spikes.

“It reflects what an unpredictably environment we are in. The changes to benefit rules, a flat economy and changes in people’s circumstances are the context to all this. “It’s important for us to see that landscape and to try to mitigate for it. But it’s a very turbulant environment which our staff are having to operate in.”

The city council administrates £26m of housing benefit for social housing and private tenants each year and £32m for people who claim housing benefit and live in the city council’s 17,000 council homes.

The council also administers £15m worth of council tax benefit each year.

• Have you got a council-related story? Contact Norwich Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

14 comments

  • Many of those claiming HB are in work but in low paid jobs.Many of those in the Tory party still have their blinds drawn,counting their millionaires' tax cut.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • I cannot speak on norwich council on handling benefit claims, but South Norfolk coucil are very good, I was made redundant three years ago, from the first time of claiming, whilst claiming dole, to now, working part time , still claiming some benefits.The coucil has given an excellent service.Full time jobs are non existant.I

    Report this comment

    lucy

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

  • OK Norwich City Council. You state there are delays cause the DWP informs you of peoples change of circumstances. Here is an idea, as unemployment is so high, rules need to be changed. Instead of a person working 16hrs and being classified as a full time worker, that person still remains on the system as an active claim instead of them being signed off. Especially this time of year when people who can work part time ie xmas casual staff, declare this then all their benefits stop or are reduced. Come the new year these people have their temporary contracts end, therefore have to claim again adding even more of a backlog. Stupid rules caused by Government departments cause problems. Time to change them to reflect the true state of this countries economy and peoples circumstances as a whole !

    Report this comment

    chebram71

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • It's probably inept Councils like Norwich City that are creating the need for food banks.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • Peter Watson - The Labour & Lib Dems have an equal share of millionaires - that is people who assets equal or exceed a million pounds. So why keep picking on the tories. The only ones who have seen a tax reduction are people earning more than a million pounds a year (not millionaires per se) without whom many people in this country would not have a job. Labour ought to stop being so hypocritical for once in their lives.

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    BG

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • That's 58 million in benefits m,mm

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • if things get tight, why don't they go out and GET A JOB instead of scrounging off the working taxpayers..again and again.

    Report this comment

    stevejo

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • "if things get tight, why don't they go out and GET A JOB" Where?

    Report this comment

    Paul Cunningham

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • What 3rd party did the council outsource to, were they, are they friends of nuLabour??? we should be told....nuLabour are in their death throes.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

  • Stevejo you go on about jobs, well here is one for you. The rules are you can work part time for under 16 hrs a week, you can therefore earn an extra £5 a week so if you benefit is £71 you can earn £76 via an agency for example, anything over £76 is deducted penny for penny from your benefits. I worked one day for an agency cost me £5 in train fare then I was deducted £10 in emergency tax, so ended worse off. Now is this an example for promoting people to even consider part time work, NO. If this government wants people to work, then they need to make sure people are better off working. With benefit changes kicking in 2013 the matter will be even worse.

    Report this comment

    chebram71

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • re PC, out and about for 2 hours today, saw 7 jobs advertised in shops, restaurants etc, the jobs are out there if people are not too fussy about what they do, and prefer work to sitting on their posterior. I have found a better job myself this year.

    Report this comment

    stevejo

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • These millionaire tax cut s lefties rant on about are not for people who have a million pounds in the bank.It is for people who probably run large businesses employing people like Mr Watson and his pals who earn a million pounds..If they did not get a break they would simply go to another country.If you don't like it go and live in Russia There are no millionaires there I think not

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • I cannot speak on norwich council on handling benefit claims, but South Norfolk coucil are very good, I was made redundant three years ago, from the first time of claiming, whilst claiming dole, to now, working part time , still claiming some benefits.The coucil has given an excellent service.Full time jobs are non existant.I

    Report this comment

    lucy

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

  • Well well well, isnt it about time this disgrace of a Local Authority was shown for its true values. Lets face it we all knew that tough times were coming.......Right, so why does the council decide to make 5 members of staff redundant during such a time that they knew there work load is going to increase and that they are already struggling. To make matters worse they then outsource the work to LGSS who say they can do a better job for less money and staff and still make a mockery of it. Its OK cos NCC have got some spare money (from where) to pay someone else to help out in this difficult situation. Waters and Arthurs your head should roll!!!

    Report this comment

    R1ng3b0y

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

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