£3.2 Million Lost: Double Standards By BHCC?

Audit and Standards Coalition Scrutiny Briefing: Coin Co International Plc (‘CCI’) has managed to get away with £3.243million!

Coalition Comment:

CPages 73-75 of the agenda identifies a disputed £100,000 per annum with Brighton & Hove Seaside Community Homes and “an ever increasing rent gap between the amount paid over to BHSCH and the amount received by the Council in the form of Housing Benefits.” Double Standards?

Minutes of previous meeting (18.9.18)

David Kuenssberg, Executive Director for Finance and Resources picture
Picture by James Boardman

“28.3  The Chair queried the high spend on Council tax and Housing Benefits stated on page 66 and asked if this was due to protecting vulnerable tenants or increased administration costs. 

The Executive Director of Finance & Resources stated that this was due to the high relative cost of rents and housing in the City, and that many housing benefit claims were paid at or close to the cap.” Link to Agenda

Coalition Comment:

This requires clarification as it differs to information provided by central government and by the BHCC response to a FOI request about; Local Council Tax Support Claimants. Double Standards?

Another Private Company Capacity Grid causes concern

Double Standards: Internal Audit Progress Report – Quarter 2 (1 July 2018 to 30 September 2018) Pages 59 – 80 of the Agenda

The report is produced by Orbis which, surprisingly, includes responsible for “Orbis Integrated Budget Management”. Despite carrying out the work itself it only gives “Partial Assurance “

“The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an update on all internal audit and counter fraud activity completed during the quarter, including a summary of all key audit findings”

“Partial Assurance “[i] is also provided for

Royal Pavilion and Museums

Housing Allocations (The review found that the current system (Homemove) is inefficient, with shortlisting being a manual and often lengthy exercise.

Specific areas for improvement were identified by the audit sample testing including: properties being allocated where persons may not have been eligible to be housed.

Insufficient checks being carried out to detect problems with some applications and inadequate evidence is being maintained of the checks carried out. 

 This leaves the allocations process open to error, with only limited time to fulfil the Allocations Policy requirements prior to confirming an offer. 

“Minimal Assurance”[ii] is provided for the Brighton Centre

“Proactive Counter Fraud Work”: BHCC priorities are reported as;

  • Investigations have resulted in 13 Council properties being returned to the Council’s stock making them available for people in genuine housing need. (The target for the year is 20).
  • Housing Benefits overpayments totalling £10,900 have been created so far as a result of investigations. [NB: much less than the total of underpayments]
  • Council tax reduction adjustments of £6,600 have also been identified this year, together with a further £19,600 in relation to Council tax account discounts (SPD’s etc.) [Money ‘saved’ is less than that paid to Capacitygrid as identified at the last Policy and Resources Committee].
  • 19 Cases of Blue Badge fraud have been sent for prosecution and 72 people have attended a Community Resolution at the Hove Town Hall with the Police and Blue Badge Investigator for misuse of Blue Badges.
  • One Right to Buy application stopped following the intervention of the Counter Fraud Team.
  • Two concessionary travel passes have been cancelled for the year to date. Less important priorities can be assessed by;

Coalition Comment:

The actions outstanding relate to an audit of Building and Systems Security and three actions that are overdue in Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing.

These three actions relate to an audit of the Housing Local Delivery Vehicle (Brighton & Hove Seaside Community Homes). SEE PAGES 73-75 OF THE AGENDA.

This less important priority includes a disputed £100,000 per annum and “an ever increasing rent gap between the amount paid over to BHSCH and the amount received by the Council in the form of Housing Benefits.” Double Standards?

Cash Collection – Company Administration Update

Shocking the final item on the agenda confirms that the council’s contractor for providing cash collection services, Coin Co International Plc (‘CCI’) has managed to get away with £3.243million! Double Standards?

Do You Want To Get More Involved?

We are looking for residents from all walks of life to come and get involved with the public involvement and scrutiny aspect to our work. We hold the council to account, which means you do!

If you are able to ask questions at local council committees we would welcome your involvement and its only a few hours of your time. Maybe you have some specific housing experience you want to share with the coalition, in which case the first step is to make contact today!

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