HL Deb 11 December 2000 vol 620 cc5-6WA
Baroness David

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of the London Borough of Islington. [HL86]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) report was published today in respect of the London Borough of Islington and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report records BFI's findings and includes recommendations aimed at helping the council address weaknesses and improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as its counter-fraud activities.

The council contracted out its benefit service in October 1998. The report's main conclusion is that, partly due to the failings in the contract but mainly due to the council's inability to manage and enforce it, claimants in Islington are receiving an extremely poor benefit service.

Inspectors found long delays in claims being processed and report there would be considerable difficulties for anyone wanting to make an enquiry on the progress of his or her claim. The report also notes the high number of complaints to the council and the local government ombudsman which had been sustained over a period of two years.

The BFI found counter-fraud work had been in decline due to under-resourcing and the lack of managerial control, and offered minimal deterrence to fraudsters.

The report contains a number of fundamental recommendations for the council reflecting the gap between the poor quality service provided and that which claimants can reasonably expect.

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