Rise at Fenland Council in time taken to process benefits - and they’re not so quick at picking up the phone

FENLAND Council agrees there has been an increase in the time it takes to process housing and Council Tax benefit claims.

The council was dealt a double whammy by figures which also show a jump in the time it takes to get someone to answer the phone at Fenland Hall.

It is now taking three weeks to process new claims and although that’s down from more than four weeks earlier this year it’s a far cry from the seven days it was achieving three years ago.

Council Leader Alan Melton said: “Of course it concerns me if our standards appear to be slipping, however, as the statistics also show, the demand for our advice and services has risen in recent months.”

This week’s report reveals the difficulties faced by the benefits claim team but portfolio holder Councillor John Clark says they are “moving towards our target of 17 days. At the same time we are processing changes to benefits in an average of 12 days and moving towards our target of 10 days.”

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The council says new claims have continued to rise significantly and they are helping 22 per cent more households with benefits than they were in 2008.

The contact centre has also been hit by an increase in the time it takes to get through.

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Cllr Clark reported that in July 82.3 per cent of calls were answered within 20 seconds but in February they answered 88.8 per cent of calls in that time; two years ago 94.1 per cent of calls were answered within 20 seconds.

A council spokesman there were peaks and troughs in demand and the summer, for example, was when many ring following issuing of reminders and court summonses in respect of unpaid Council Tax.

“We are still performing very well nationally whilst delivering the financial challenges efficiency requires,” said a spokesman.

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