Plymouth City Council is working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to call on the Government to tackle the issue of Housing Benefit overpayments, which contributes to a loss of £1 million a year to Plymouth taxpayers.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pays a subsidy to councils including Plymouth to administer Housing Benefit, but councils are losing out largely because sometimes claimants do not tell the council about a change in their circumstances and it is up to councils to recover the overpayment of Housing Benefit from the claimant.
Councillor Ian Darcy, Cabinet Member for Finance for Plymouth City Council, said: “Although these overpayments are gradually going down, we simply can’t afford to go on like this and it is absolutely vital that the Government addresses this issue. Recovery of Housing Benefit overpayments has never been 100%. This contributes to a housing benefit subsidy gap of more than £1 million each year in Plymouth.
“But this is also a national problem – we have contacted other local authorities and they have all confirmed that they are experiencing the same problem with overpayments and financial impact as Plymouth. The LGA has committed to undertake a review to report into the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and will use Plymouth as their test case.
“We are also working hard locally to tackle the issue and one of our housing benefit specialists has been co-located with the Transaction Centre team at Windsor House for a trial period of 6 months to work closely with them to improve our debt recovery process. We are also recruiting into two vacancies to ramp up our debt recovery work.
“I would also like to reiterate that it is vital that if you do receive Housing Benefit then please do tell us about any changes in your circumstances, for example if you get married, get a new job, if you move house, if your partner moves in, or if your children turn 18. You can either do this via our website www.plymouth.gov.uk or by calling us on 01752 668000.”