§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Chris Pond)
I am pleased to announce the first awards from the £200 million Performance Standards Fund. These total £33 million and will benefit 210 local authorities, who submitted applications for funding to support their local housing benefit improvement plans.
These awards are the first step in the substantial investment we are making, as part of our housing benefit reform agenda. The performance standards fund of £200 million over three years represents the single biggest investment in housing benefit since the scheme began in 1988. We have established the fund to target additional resources in a focused way to help local authorities bridge the gap between current performance and the performance standards for housing benefit administration we published last year.
The priority for the first awards of funding is to improve performance in the speed and accuracy of processing of claims and the prevention and recovery of overpayments. Much of the additional funding is going to help with the recruitment and training of new benefit staff and investment in new IT systems. These awards demonstrate that we are committed to working in partnership with local government to improve their performance. In return, however, we expect real improvements in the speed and accuracy of claims processing.
A full list of the successful applications has been placed in the Library. We expect to be announcing further awards during the coming year.