Issued: 14 January 2004
Improvement in Angus Council Tax Collection Rate
COMMENTING on the performance information published by the Accounts Commission today (Thursday) Angus Council's Resources and Central Services convener Alex King said he was pleased that Angus has once again improved its council tax collection rate.
"We are one of only a handful of Scottish authorities to have improved our collection rate year on year. The 94.7% collection rate for 2003/04 is well above the Scottish average and in addition to that the cost of collection is below the Scottish average, further maximising the return to the council."
Councillor King stressed that the council would continue to use the wide range of enforcement action available to it in order to maximise tax collection but highlighted that collection rates are nearing their maximum levels.
"Although we believe we are approaching maximum collection levels the council will continue to seek improvement wherever possible and will continue to apply all of the statutory and council approved recovery procedures at our disposal."
Angus' improved year on year collection rate gives the council a total payment rate of 97.1% for council tax due since 1996.
Commenting on the Accounts Commission's benefits processing figures councillor King acknowledged that the council's performance needed to improve but said that measures had been put in place to achieve this. "We know that our processing time has slipped since the verification framework for the assessment of new claims was introduced but most councils have experienced difficulties as they introduced the new system, usually leading to delays in payments.
"The verification framework has been introduced to reduce fraudulent claims and while our processing times have increased as a result of implementing the new scheme, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate recognised these efforts in their last report and commended our verification processes. Added to that Angus is currently one of only 19 councils to have fully implemented the new system so the figures published do not really compare like with like performance across the board.
"However we recognise that we need to shorten processing times and have a report coming to committee at the end of this month outlining the action being taken and I am confident that we will see a significant improvement."
The council has already taken steps to improve the processing times for new claims deal by allocating staff solely to benefit processing, increasing overtime and recruiting additional staff in that section. Renewal claims are also being staggered to even out workloads. Considerable effort is also being put into promoting and informing claimants of the new and more vigorous verification system to try to avoid the delays which occur when incomplete claims are submitted.
80% of claims currently submitted to Angus Council are incomplete when first returned so claimants are asked to make sure they supply the all of the necessary documents with their claim to avoid any delay in processing their payments.