HC Deb 06 March 2001 vol 364 cc168-9W
Mr. Goggins

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of Liverpool city council. [152672]

Mr. Rooker

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate report was published today in respect of Liverpool city council and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report makes recommendations to help the authority address weaknesses and to improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as its counter fraud activities.

Overall, inspectors found a number of weaknesses and poor standards of performance in benefit administration and counter fraud work that needed immediate attention. Inconsistent and ineffective work practices were found and there were substantial backlogs of work affecting over 30,000 benefit claims which had led to lengthy delays in claims processing.

The BFI reports the authority's lack of effective performance standards and targets, inadequate management information, weaknesses in checks and controls, poor management and recovery of benefit overpayments and no formal assessment of the risks of benefit fraud.

The report notes that although there is some good counter fraud work, it is not focused and significant effort is being wasted. Where management checking exists it is largely ineffective and provides little assurance.

The report concludes that BFI has serious concerns about Liverpool's recent performance in managing and delivering a secure benefits service. More positively, however, the report notes that the authority has recognised the significant challenges it faces and is strongly committed to a significant change programme that will involve overhauling its systems, structures and processes. While BFI recognises the size of the task and that the necessary changes will be difficult, inspectors are encouraged by the authority's commitment to tackle these issues.

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