Housing Benefits Grant Subsidy for the year ended 31 March 2017
The Assistant Director, Financial Services and Revenues, presented the BDO report which summarises the matters arising from the certification of the Housing Benefit Subsidy Claim for the financial year ended 31 March 2017. The report also included the amount of fees incurred.
He informed the committee that external audit did a lot of work reviewing the Housing Benefit subsidies claim and internal testing work undertaken. It was explained that the variation in fees in their report depends on the sampling. Some claims are straight forward, some go back 10 years and take a lot of time to justify, hence we see a variation on fees and charges against that projected.
Last year was satisfactory. We have again appointed Branch & Lee, Housing subsidy maximisation experts, to review this year’s benefits claim and anticipate another smooth process for the 2017/18 audit.
Councillor Sinden queried why the £24,000 swing to Hastings BC was so large. It was explained that this is relatively small in the context of a £50m claim. There will always be errors in the claims given, some are local authority error and others are claimant error, for example, on self-employed earnings there can be different interpretations. He was assured though that overall the error rate is very low.
Councillor Davies queried what happens to the increase in subsidy of £24,000 and was informed that it is in our bank account – offsetting the costs incurred.
Councillor Davies queried whether benefit overpayments and hence funding was impacted as a consequence of bedroom tax. He was informed it was and arises when someone exceeds the number of bedrooms to which they are entitled or are not ‘disabled exempt’ – in which case an overpayment can arise.
Councillor Rankin asked whether Branch & Lee provide value for money.
The Assistant Director Financial Services and Revenues said that they provide good value for money and cost between £22,000-£25,000 a year. Their costs have been offset by the subsidy received. If we stay below error rate, we can recover more subsidy. He added it is important to make as few errors as is possible and we have never exceeded the set error rate where we could lose in excess of £100,000 if it were to be exceeded.
Branch & Lee are good value and also produce an information sheet detailing errors occurring and steps that can be taken to improve accuracy. This provides a valuable learning and training document for staff.
Councillor Sinden proposed a motion to approve the recommendation as set out in the resolution below. This was seconded by Councillor Chowney.
RESOLVED (unanimously) that
1. To accept the External Auditor’s Report on the Audit of the Housing Benefit Subsidy Claim for the year ended 31 March 2017.
The reason for the decision was: BDO undertake the grant claim certification as an agent of Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) Ltd, in accordance with the Certification Instruction (CI) issued by them after consultation with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The Audit Committee role includes receipt and consideration of all reports produced by the External Auditors which are directed to Hastings Borough Council.
- Housing Benefits Grant Subsidy for the year ended 31 March 2017, item 12. PDF 127 KB
- Appendix A - Hastings Benefits Grant Subsidy for the year ended 31 March 2017, item 12. PDF 520 KB