Errors on housing benefit claim could cost council £250,000

Parkside Chart Way Horsham - Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council SUS-150723-162029001

Parkside Chart Way Horsham - Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council SUS-150723-162029001

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Errors by a partnership administering housing benefits to Horsham district residents could cost the council almost a quarter of a million pounds.

CenSus revenues and benefits partnership is operated by Mid Sussex District Council and is also responsible for collecting taxes, and overseeing council tax support schemes.

However Horsham District Council is considering whether to withdraw as it may receive a Government reduction of £249,000 in its housing benefit subsidy claim for 2015/16 after advice from external auditors about the level of errors in decisions made in individual cases.

Adur District Council, the third authority in the partnership, has already signalled its intention to pull out.

Brian Donnelly, HDC’s cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “The partnership has been in existence for around 11 years.

“Whilst it succeeded in reducing operating costs over that period it has now reached the point where we need to consider the best way to make sure we have a sound service for the future.”

Cabinet members will consider a report next week (Thursday January 26) which describes issues with the loss of the subsidy, the work that has been done so far and what is being done to remedy these problems.

The report also refers to issues with the business rates collection rates, and recommends that the council should seek to leave the partnership and find an alternative method for delivering the service.

In the meantime the council has received a grant to commission further work to develop an options appraisal of the choices the council has outside the CenSus partnership.

The options appraisal will consider: running the service itself, finding another partner locally or further away, or outsourcing the service.

This report is set to be presented to cabinet members in March.

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