HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1141-2W
Mr. Wyatt

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what additional resources he will offer to resolve the on—going problems in the housing benefit department at Swale Borough Council. [153728]

Mr. Pond

The Government are investing £200 million over this and the next two financial years to help local authorities make improvements in their administration of housing benefit. Swale Borough Council has been awarded funding for a training officer post, and we will be pleased to consider additional bids from the council.

In addition, and in recognition of the problems experienced by Swale Borough Council the Department has provided free consultancy assistance from its Help Team.

The Help Team worked with the council for six weeks during the period 29 September 2003 to 12 December 2003. During that time assistance was provided to the council in the development of a project plan to clear its backlog of outstanding benefits work. In addition, work was also undertaken on the introduction of a communications strategy, a review of existing policies and procedures plus a review of how benefits work and staff are organised. departmental files. We will closely manage and monitor the new contract to ensure that this remains the case.