Mid Suffolk: Concerns over time council is taking to process benefits

Mid Suffolk District Council in Needham Market.

Mid Suffolk District Council in Needham Market. - Credit: Archant

A council leader has defended the time it is taking to process new benefit claims because of the “many” Government changes which have been imposed.

Councillors at Mid Suffolk District Council heard how the authority took an average of 24 days in 2012/13 to go through claims for housing and council tax benefits.

Liberal Democrats John Field and Penny Otton both criticised the time taken, calling for the council to take on extra staff to speed up the processes.

Mr Field, councillor for Bramford and Blakenham, said: “Processing benefits at 24 days seems to be quite a lengthy period for people who need this of sort of thing processed rapidly. It’s difficult for people to gather just why it is taking 24 days when it seems a relatively simple (process).”

Mrs Otton, for Rattlesden, said: “It was predicted that it would happen because of the significant changes.

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“We want to know what the board is doing about this – taking people on temporarily?”

Councillors heard from the officer speaking on the matter that there needed to be an “investment in staff” to improve the time taken but it was something the council could not do because of the “financial implications”.

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Conservative council leader, Derrick Haley, said: “There are so many changes taking place – without any question.

“The board has realised the staff are under regular pressure to do this and it’s not easy.

“I have to say looking at it going forward there’s more changes that we will have to deal with. It’s no worse than it was last year, but considering all the changes that have taken place they (council staff) are doing extremely well.”

The council had predicted it would take on average 24 days to process the benefits for 2012/13. Between April and September last year the council was taking 38 days to process the benefits.

In June this year, the time the council was taking had fallen to an average of 24 days.

Councillors met in an executive committee meeting on Monday.

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