Housing benefit claimants overpaid at least £164,000

editorial image

Housing benefit claimants were overpaid at least £164,000 in Brighton and Hove in the past year by the council.

This was about 0.1 per cent of the £163 million in housing benefit claims handled by Brighton and Hove City Council in 2015-16.

However the money may be withheld by the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Paul King, from auditors Ernst and Young.

This was likely to leave the council out of pocket although officials were often able to try to reclaim overpayments from those receiving the benefits.

The £164,000 in overpayments compared with a figure of about £124,000 in 2014/15 – and Mr King said that the council was far from the worst performer in this area.

He said that when auditors found errors they then checked more claims and this led to more errors being found, but there was no pattern.

Nigel Manvell, the council’s assistant director of finance and procurement, told the council’s Audit and Standards Committee last night (Tuesday January 10) that he was pleased that there were no signs of systematic fraud.

But as a result of the errors the auditor had issued a qualification letter, councillors heard.

Councillors Ollie Sykes and Tom Druitt, both Greens, asked about underpayments, but they were told that these were not included in the qualification letter because the DWP was more interested in clawing back overpayments.

Diane Bushell, an independent member of the Audit and Standards Committee, urged the council to learn lessons from the best-performing councils.