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Glasgow City Council (Benefit Fraud Inspectorate)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Chris Pond): On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection report on Glasgow City Council was published today and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

Following the housing Green Paper "Quality and Choice: A Decent Home for All", published in April 2000, the Department for Work and Pensions developed a performance framework for housing benefits. The performance standards allow local authorities to make a comprehensive self-assessment of whether they deliver benefit effectively and securely. They are the standards that the Department for Work and Pensions expects local authorities to aspire to and achieve in time.

In 2003–04, Glasgow City Council administered some £350 million in housing benefits, about 17 per cent. of its gross revenue expenditure.
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BFI's first inspection of Glasgow City Council, in March 2001, reported that it needed to develop a more effective, efficient and secure benefits administration system.

This follow-up inspection assessed the council against the performance standards. While the council did not meet standard in any of the seven functional areas, the report concludes that it has made significant progress since the first inspection. Its overall level of performance was assessed as fair.

Customers received a good service in terms of caller facilities and the council had made significant improvements in the speed of processing claims. However it was failing to protect the gateway to benefits effectively due to inadequate verification of new claims and a lack of interventions after a benefit had been awarded.
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The council had taken a number of positive steps to improve the overpayment recovery process and while it had made a significant investment in resources for its benefit counter-fraud unit, there continued to be insufficient controls around the number and quality of investigations.

BFI found a clear commitment to improve performance including plans to implement new benefits IT systems and the implementation of the Department's verification framework.

The report makes recommendations further to improve the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit, as well as counter-fraud activities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and will be asking the council for its proposals in response to the BFI's findings and recommendations.