December 13 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
People in Norwich are still facing delays of almost a month in getting new claims for council tax and housing benefit sorted out.
But Norwich City Council bosses insist that a backlog in benefit claims, which has caused hold-ups in processing claims for the best part of a year, is being cleared, after new staff were brought in to tackle it.
At one point, the average processing time for such claims had increased to more than 52 days, way over the authority’s target of 21 days, but council bosses say they have now reduced the average wait to 26 days.
As reported, City Hall staff had been working at weekends to try to clear the backlog and council bosses said extra staff were brought in to help.
A council spokeswoman said: “We’ve been working hard to tackle the problems we’ve had with the time taken to process new claims for housing benefit and council tax reduction.
“A key step we’ve taken to bring down these figures is to reinvest our resources by filling about 10 vacancies within the benefits section since April.
“This has had a significant and very welcome impact on bringing down our average wait times. We are now starting to see the fruit of that labour as on June 14 we had a total of 831 new claims outstanding for housing benefit and council tax. By September 5 this had decreased to 286.
“This has had the effect of pushing down our average processing times to 26 days by the week ending September 1, from around 42 days in July.
“There’s still work to be done to reach our target so we’ll carry on with getting the job done and drive hard at continuing to bring the figures down.”
Alan Waters, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for resources said: “It is getting better. It’s really important that we get this right and respond as quickly as we can, but we also require the Department for Work and Pensions to do its bit, so we are working as closely as we can with them.”
Mr Waters urged people who need to submit new claims not to do so by post, but to head to City Hall instead and to make sure they take all relevant documents, identification and claims with them.
A council spokeswoman said the cost of the temporary staff and to fill the 10 full-time vacancies had been covered within the existing budget for the service.