Council’s Revenues & Business Support section praised as Accounts Commission report is published
Members of yesterday’s Corporate Resources Committee were presented with a paper summarising a thematic study published by the Accounts Commission. The study focused on the impact of Covid-19 on Scottish council’s benefit services, with the report to Committee members specifically highlighting strong performance achieved by Highland Council’s Revenues & Business Support section.
28 of the 32 local authorities responded to the Accounts Commission’s research which established that Scottish councils reacted positively to the implications of Covid-19 and were effective in meeting the significant challenges of delivering benefit services remotely.
To ensure business continuity during the pandemic, the Council introduced a flexible approach that enabled employees to balance personal responsibilities with their contractual hours. As a result of the pandemic and for other reasons, many councils operated below full-time equivalent (FTE) complement during 2020/21. In Highland, the Commission report that Service Delivery Team was operating at 83% capacity.
Reduced capacity was managed by streamlining policies and procedures, working in closer collaboration with Citizens Advice and mobilising the team to focus on priority areas of work, ensuring business continuity for benefit recipients and landlords alike.
Against a backdrop of absences and other challenges in the initial phases of the pandemic, the Commission found that the Council’s Service Delivery Team effectively managed an increased caseload while still delivering strong performance for new claims and changes in circumstances.
Moreover, the Commission established that processing accuracy within the Council had not been compromised despite the significant challenges being managed by the Service Delivery Team. It recognised that, in addition to the core benefit services, other pressures were effectively managed in parallel – including multiple pandemic payments being handled within Revenues & Business Support along with an unprecedented demand for welfare services.
Chair of the Corporate Resources Committee, Councillor Jimmy Gray, said: “Myself and all other Councillors have been hugely impressed by the incredible performance of all within the Team. We would wish to express our sincere thanks to those working in the Revenues & Business Support section who effectively responded and adapted to the varied challenges faced during the course of the pandemic – not only to maintain service delivery standards, but, in many areas, also to improve upon previous benchmarks. An incredible performance by all.”