View more on these topics

Housing benefits process under scrutiny

Councils are to be made more accountable to the public as the Department for Work and Pensions publishes, for the first time, figures for how quickly they process housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Malcolm Wicks, housing benefit minister, says: “Publishing these statistics is part of our strategy for reforming housing benefit. It is right and proper that the public see how well or how badly their council is doing.

“It is unacceptable that the worst performing councils take up to five times longer to process claims than the best performers. Council leaders and chief executives need to take responsibility where there are serious performance failures and act to improve delivery. We are working with councils to improve efficiency.”

Statistics published this week show that nationally the time taken to process new claims has improved by around four days to an average of eight weeks. But they also highlight widespread variations across individual councils.

Over 100 councils are processing new claims for housing benefit within 34 calendar days on average, while the worst performing councils were taking up to 162 days.

Changes of circumstances were being handled in around three days in some councils, but in excess of 100 days in others .

The target of 14 days for issuing decisions on claims in which all the necessary information has been supplied was being met in 100% of cases in some councils but in only 20% of cases in others.


Brand strategy pays off

Branded lending helped Advantage Mortgage Services to grow business by 25% last year. The Chester-based packager is currently writing over £18m of sub-prime business a month. Advantage launched Advance Home Loans last year with the backing of Mortgages PLC and Platform Home Loans. A branded agreement with GMAC-RFC will go live in early spring this […]

House prices have risen by 306% in 20 years

House prices in the UK have increased by 306% over the last 20 years, research from the Halifax reveals. The biggest increases in prices have been recorded in Greater London where prices have risen by 456%, while the smallest increases have been seen in Scotland (158%). The north/south divide has widened significantly over the past […]

Rhino says borrowers being ripped off on MPPI

Mortgage borrowers are still being ripped off by over-the-odds insurance policy charges, despite rising sales of mortgage payment protection insurance. Data released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders last week shows nearly 700,000 borrowers have signed up for MPPI since the CML/ABI sustainable home-ownership initiative began in 1999. Nearly 428,000 policies were sold or provided […]

Insurance discount helps quality builders

Builders approved under the government Quality Mark will in future enjoy a 20% discount on liability insurance premiums. Insurance costs for all construction firms employing staff have risen sharply in recent years due to factors including the post-September 11 effect and a poor accident record. The industry has made repeated calls for the government to […]


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up