Venue: Committee Room, Municipal Buildings, West Street, Boston, PE21 8QR
Contact: Janette Collier, Senior Democratic Services Officer Tel. no: 01205 314227 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To sign and confirm the minutes of the last meeting, held on 6th June 2019.
The minutes of the Committee’s last meeting, held on 6th June 2019, were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes (if any).
Apologies for absence from Councillors Tom Ashton, Richard Austin and Frank Pickett.
(A report by Gemma Creasey, Council Tax and Benefits Manager and a presentation by Matthew Hall of the Department for Work and Pensions – DWP)
The Council Tax and Benefits Manager presented a report, which outlined the Housing Benefits and Council Tax Support provided to local residents and gave an update on current performance within this area. In addition, a presentation about the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) in Boston would be made to the Committee by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP).
By receiving and considering both, the Committee would be able to scrutinise whether the Council and its key partners were achieving and supporting its corporate priorities to Support the most vulnerable in our borough (in welfare terms) and to Maintain our excellent welfare support performance. The Committee could then provide any feedback and recommendations to the Cabinet that arose from the scrutiny process.
The Revenues and Benefits team dealt with some of the most vulnerable residents in the borough and aimed to provide support and assistance in a timely and professional manner. Appointment slots were offered for new claims to both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support with a trained benefits assessor who could support the claimant with their application and, where possible, a decision was made at the appointment.
Housing benefit was a Government scheme providing means-tested benefit towards rental costs and was now only available to new claimants of pensionable age and those under pensionable age who were in receipt of Severe Disablement Payment or in temporary or supported accommodation. All other new claimants applied for UC.
Legislation set out the process by which local authorities had to approve a local Council Tax Support scheme. The regulations included protection for pensioners, but allowed local authorities to make changes in the way that support was calculated for working age claimants.
The Council’s Council Tax Support scheme used the following principles:
· Protecting the most vulnerable (pension-age and war pensioners);
· Means-testing based on the former Council Tax Benefit rules as far as possible;
· Reviewing the scheme annually
The scheme included elements that protected war pensioners from reductions in support and capped maximum entitlement at 75% of Council Tax liability. The review of the scheme for the current year had identified that the projected costs were contained within the resources available. As of 30 June 2019, there had been 4,836 people claiming Council Tax Support and expenditure totalled £3,900,123, of which 51.2% had been claimed by people of working age. For the same period there had been 5,430 claims to Housing Benefit.
The performance measure used for both benefits was the time taken to process new claims and changes of circumstances and these figures were reported monthly to the DWP. As at 30 June 2019, figures relating to processing new claims were 3.72 days for Housing Benefit and 5.85 for Council Tax Support against the performance measure of 10 days. With respect to processing changes in circumstances, the figures were 5.25 for Housing Benefit and 7.12 for Council Tax Support against the performance measure of 14 days. Delays in processing claims could be caused by the need for further information. The ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
(A report by Andy Fisher, Head of Regulatory Services, and a presentation by Ivan Annibal of Rose Regeneration)
In September 2017, Boston was awarded £1,387,503 from the Government’s Controlling Migration Fund (CMF). The funding was awarded to the Council as the Accountable Body.
Referred to as the ‘Inclusive Boston Project’, the funding brought together a partnership of:
· Boston Borough Council
· Boston College
· Bringing Learning into Communities
· Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire
· Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service
· Taylor Itex
· The Parish of St Botolph’s
The programme was overseen by the Inclusive Boston Board, which was made up of senior representatives from each organisation.
The purpose of the fund was to ‘help local authorities mitigate the impacts of recent migration on communities in their area’.
As described in the successful bid submission, tackling the issues Boston faced was about the need for additional resources that did not already exist and could not be found from small, ever-decreasing budgets. The bid set out the range of projects and activities that it was believed would have a cumulative, lasting impact in mitigating some of the issues faced by partners and the existing and new population:
1. A Passion for People, sponsored by St Botolph’s Parish Church
2. Community Leadership, Advice and Integration, sponsored by Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service and Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire
3. Adding value to learning English, sponsored by Bringing Learning into Communities
4. Doing what’s important to our Community - Regulating the Impact of Migration, Increasing Fitness Provision and Bringing Christmas back into the Community, sponsored by Boston Borough Council
A significant element of the Inclusive Boston Programme was project evaluation. Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service (supported by the Inclusive Boston Board) had commissioned Rose Regeneration to undertake an iterative evaluation of the Inclusive Boston Programme. An interim evaluation had been produced by Rose Regeneration in partnership with a team from the University of Lincoln and was attached to the report at Appendix 1. A final evaluation had to be presented to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) by 30 September 2020.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had agreed the governance framework around the Inclusive Boston Programme and Audit Lincolnshire had already provided Substantial Assurance about its governance; however, Member scrutiny of the interim report at this stage would add significant value to the ongoing evaluation process.
The Head of Regulatory Services advised the meeting that he was the chairman of the Inclusive Boston Board, which was appropriate as the Council was the accountable body. The bid had included details of the Council’s review from 2012 regarding the social impact of population change. Information regarding CMF expenditure and performance was included in the Council’s quarterly monitoring reports.
The importance of evaluation had been recognised and the resources to provide it had been doubled. The Board had helped with the process of appointing Rose Regeneration and the organisation had presented their evaluation to the Board in May.
The Committee then received a presentation from Ivan Annibal of Rose Regeneration, which explained the evaluation process and explored the ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
(For Members to note/discuss the Committee’s current work programme)
The work programme was not considered.