County cash collection service scoops gold

NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has scooped gold in a national awards scheme for improving its money collection service.

The authority’s Revenues and Benefits section was among the winners at the IRRV (The Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation) Performance Awards 2012.

It was successful in the Most Improved Team of the Year (Multiple Services) category after demonstrating notable increases over a three-year period.

Following local government reorganisation in April 2009, the county council took over responsibility for revenues and benefits from the six former district and borough councils.

Since then, in-year collection rates for council tax have gone up from 96.6 per cent to 97.4 per cent and £12.5million of arrears have been recovered.

In-year collection rates of business rates have risen from 95.5 per cent to 97.2 per cent and £5.5million of arrears have been recovered during the same period.

In addition, the average processing times for new benefit claims has reduced from 35 days to 19 days and fraud detections have increased from 94 to 165.

Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said: “Local government reorganisation back in 2009 was a huge challenge for us all, none more so than for the finance section.

“The Revenues and Benefits section met the challenge head on and their sheer hard work, planning and commitment has enabled the service to achieve and significantly improve in the last three years.”

He added: “I’m delighted that their efforts have been rewarded though this fantastic achievement, which highlights the good work of the council on a national stage.”