Every now and then I like to pass the time by having a look at Housing Benefits 'Speed of Processing' stats. I last did this back in March last year when the most recent figures we had were Q2 2010. I now have those for Q2 2011 (Excel file).
Things were looking pretty bad for NCC last year and things seem to have got even worse in the latest results. For the equivalent quarter in 2010 speed of processing all new claims was 37 days and for changes in circumstances 14 days. For Q2 2011 these increased to 60 days and 36 days.
These figures are truly shocking by modern standards and leaves NCC by far the worst in the East Midlands on both counts. The next worst is Derby City with processing new claims at 42 days and changes in circumstances at 29 days. Leicester is at 29 days and 16 days. There are only three other LAs in the East Midlands with new claims processing times of more than 30 days, out of a total of 40 councils. It means that NCC is the second worst in Great Britain at processing new claims, with only Durham worse, taking an average of 69 days.
This increasingly poor service is no doubt in part due to the recession but a lack of inspection and piss-poor management are also key factors. I recently wrote about Housing Benefits having to return over £400k in benefits subsidies, an error which can be laid firmly at senior managers' door.
Unfortunately, due to its forthcoming abolition the Audit Commission doesn't appear to running any more inspections of LA benefits services, not that it was difficult for cynical managers to manipulate the system to make the numbers look good. So things will undoubtedly continue to get worse.