FENLAND: Benefit claims rocket but council praised for swift turnaround on claims handling

PUBLISHED: 14:28 16 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 June 2010

THE scale of the economic crisis affecting Fenland was revealed to councillors who were told the number of benefit claimants locally had risen by 700 new cases in a year. Councillor Kit Owen, portfolio holder for housing and growth, revealed that latest f

THE scale of the economic crisis affecting Fenland was revealed to councillors who were told the number of benefit claimants locally had risen by 700 new cases in a year.

Councillor Kit Owen, portfolio holder for housing and growth, revealed that latest figures showed 8825 people were now claiming benefit compared to 8125 a year ago.

He said redundancies in Fenland had now added to the total but he praised council staff for continuing to handle claims swiftly.

He was commenting on a report to the overview and scrutiny committee which showed Fenland District Council had one of the best records in the country for handling benefits.

Cllr Owen said it was testament to the team at Fenland that they were still able to handle claims within the criterion set down.

The report to councillors showed that the Department of Works and Pensions had verified that the FDC benefits team are the fifth fastest in the country for benefits processing.

"New benefits claims are processed within 14 days compared with 74 days three years ago," said the report. "Benefit changes of circumstances are processed within six days compared to 38 days three years ago."

The report added: "Satisfaction with the benefits service is also extremely high with 88 per cent of customers satisfied with the service they have received."

Cllr Owen, responding to questions from scrutiny committee members, said if councillors were not satisfied with 88 per cent and wanted 100 per cent "I am not sure what we are to do? I think 88 per cent is a very laudable achievement."

Councillor Simon King, committee chairman, said it was important to emphasis the team was one of the best in the country.


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