Decision status: Information Only
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Purpose of Report
To provide the Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee with an update on performance in the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service, as detailed within Appendix 1 of the Report.
That the report be noted, and an update be presented to the next meeting of the Committee on 24 November 2022.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
Reason for Decision
The report provided information on revenues performance for Quarter 1 2022/23 in respect of (a) council tax for the City of Lincoln Council and North Kesteven District Council; and (b) business rates for the City of Lincoln Council, North Kesteven District Council and West Lindsey District Council. Comparisons to the national and local position in terms of performance was provided, where possible.
The Revenues and Benefits Shared Service had now been in operation for eleven years since 1 June 2011, and performance had largely been maintained and improved whilst continuing to provide value for money. Continual improvement and success was being achieved in both statistical and financial performance, as well as positive outcomes for customers of the partner local authorities. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had understandably impacted on some areas of performance and these impacts were likely to continue for many more months.
In respect of council tax, up to the end of Quarter 1 2022/23, in-year collection for Lincoln and North Kesteven was up by 0.89% and 0.24% respectively. This was a positive direction in travel, officers would do everything possible to continue this trajectory going forward. Net collectable debit for 2022/23 (compared to 2021/22) had increased by £1.9 m for Lincoln and £4.5m for North Kesteven.
In terms of the national context, the latest available figures related to annual Council Tax in-year collection outturns 2021/22. City of Lincoln Council’s in-year collection was 266th (2020/21 238th) and North Kesteven 28th (2020/21 35th) out of 308 local authorities whose performance was reported. Out of the seven Lincolnshire Districts, for 2021/22, City of Lincoln and North Kesteven achieved 7th and 2nd highest collections respectively.
There were some outstanding Council Tax Hardship monies still to be allocated to identified Council Tax accounts, which would have a positive impact on 2021/22 in-year collection rates. However, with the significant pressures of delivering the Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme, resources had understandably been diverted, - however, these outstanding hardship monies were expected to be allocated shortly.
In respect of business rates, up to the end of Quarter 1 2022/23, compared to the same point in 2021/22, in-year collection was up for all three local authorities: by 7.50% for Lincoln, 2.81% up for North Kesteven and 2.04% for West Lindsey. Collection had been ‘skewed’ somewhat in recent financial years due to varying criteria/awards of the Expanded Retail Discount (ERD)
In terms of the national context, the latest available figures were for annual Business Rates in-year collection outturns 2021/22. City of Lincoln Council’s in-year collection was 48th (2020/21 7th), North Kesteven 1st (2020/21 46th) and West Lindsey 170th (2020/21 28th) out of 308 local authorities whose performance was reported. Out of the seven Lincolnshire Districts, for 2020/21, City of Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey achieved 3rd, 1st and 4th highest collections, respectively.
It was a significant positive achievement for LiNK to have collected the highest Business Rates in-year collection rate in the whole country for 2021/22, in a year of unprecedented challenges economically as well as demands on our shared service.
In terms of West Lindsey’s 2021/22 collection rate, this was adversely affected by significant values of non-payment from a small number of businesses. Appropriate recovery action continues to take place with these accounts.
As at the end of the Quarter 1 2022/23, the number of outstanding revenues customers stood at a total of 2,323, of which 1,838 were from the City of Lincoln and 485 from North Kesteven. This improvement was pleasing, even more so considering the level of outstanding work at the end of October 2021 was 5,101 (split Lincoln 3,367 North Kesteven 1,734), where demands on the team had remained significantly high over an extended period of time – also impacted by reduced staffing resources. The team, with officers in place to fill gaps in the establishment, had worked tremendously hard to pull performance round in this area. However, there were currently three positions out to recruitment advert on our Revenues Team – so there was now a pressure on resources – it was hoped that this would only be relatively short-term.
As at the end of Quarter 1 2022/23, in-period collection of Housing Benefit overpayments stood at 126.84% for City of Lincoln and 141.71% for North Kesteven Outstanding Housing Benefit overpayments debt also continued to decrease overall as at the end of Quarter 1 2022/23, at £2,604,637 for City of Lincoln and £1,357,357 for North Kesteven
As at the end of Quarter 1 2022/23, there were 3, 654 Benefit customers outstanding and awaiting assessment, (split Lincoln 2,544, North Kesteven 1,110) This figure was higher than the same point in 2021/22 (total 3,375 – split Lincoln 2,587, North Kesteven 788), - and also from the end of March 2022 (total 2,768 – split Lincoln 2,117, North Kesteven 651). There continued to be a significant demand on the Benefits Team, particularly in relation to (but not exclusively) Universal Credit -related information impacting on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support claims. At the same time, Benefits Officers were also working on Discretionary Housing Payments, Council Tax Energy Rebate and Household Support Fund.
Direction of travel was now improving however – for example, at 15th June 2022, there were a total of 4,802 Benefits customers outstanding – by 10th August 2022 (when this report was being written) – this figure had reduced to 2,027.
In terms of claims checked that were ‘correct, first time’ (with even £0.01p ‘out’ being classified as an incorrect assessment), at the end of Quarter 1 2022/23 the City of Lincoln figure stood a : 94.32% (216 out of 229 checked),and North Kesteven: 94.09% (207 out of 220 checked).
These checks were in addition to the significant amount of checks also carried out under the audit requirements of the annual Housing Benefit Subsidy claims.
Provision of welfare and benefits advice continued to be key as our Welfare Team continued to assist customers to access vital monies in the first quarter of 2022/23. Further detail was set out within the table at Paragraph 6.2 of the officer’s report.
Publication date: 16/11/2022
Date of decision: 08/09/2022
Decided at meeting: 08/09/2022 - Shared Revenues and Benefits Joint Committee