News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Universal Credit poses major risk to a council’s debt levels due to an increase in rent arrears

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Sep 12th, 2018.

Benefit changes pose a major risk by increasing debts owed to a council, it has been warned.

It comes as the introduction of Universal Credit by the UK government has placed pressure on the finances of households in Flintshire.

Members of Flintshire Council’s audit committee met today to discuss the 12 main strategic risks currently facing the authority.

Chief executive Colin Everett said there was a risk that debt levels will rise if tenants are unable to afford to pay their rent or council tax.

He said: “The first year of Universal Credit full service resulted in an increase in rent arrears for our tenants.

“Council tax collection rates, however, appear to be unaffected at this stage.

“Work continues in 2018/19 to target early intervention for tenants claiming Universal Credit to tackle rent arrears and to encourage payment of rent to avoid new or escalating arrears in order to ensure that homelessness is prevented wherever possible and rent collection is maximised.”

Another major risk identified is that the council is unable to complete adaptations to the homes of disabled people in a timely manner because of competing demands.

In June, an internal audit called for an urgent review of how the authority oversees Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) after it said key control measures were either absent or rarely applied.

Mr Everett said meeting timescales has been an ‘area of challenge’ for the council.

He said: “There are projects underway to improve performance including rolling out use of the new adaptations procurement framework and further process improvements.

“However, demand upon the DFG budget required delaying the least urgent cases in the latter part of 2017/2018 which impacted upon average time scales for DFGs.

“Performance timescales and processes for the timely completion of Disabled Facilities Grant adaptations are now the subject of a managerial overview group to examine causes and put in place improvements.”

Concerns were also raised about demand outstripping supply for beds at residential and nursing homes.

The expansion of Marleyfield care home in Buckley, which is owned and run by the council, is currently being carried out to support the development of the nursing sector.

Councillors unanimously voted to note the end of year summary of strategic risks.

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