More than £92,000 in benefits overpayments written-off by Amber Valley Borough Council

NRHNBE120222c1, Amber valley borough council building, Ripley.
NRHNBE120222c1, Amber valley borough council building, Ripley.

Figures obtained by the Ripley and Heanor News show that Amber Valley Borough Council has written off £92,754 worth of housing benefits overpayments during the last financial year.

The freedom of information request revealed that in total the council had written off £176,606 of debt during the same period.

Mark Griffiths, of Amber Valley Borough Council, confirmed that the amount of benefit overpayments written off had risen - from £65,458 in 2014-15.

He said: “Overpayments of housing benefit can occur for a number of reasons but the main factor is that a claimant fails to tell the council their circumstances have changed.

“To a lesser degree overpayments can occur due to errors made by the benefits office at the council or by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Mr Griffiths said the council used a number of methods to recover debts, including reducing ongoing payments of the benefit and even contacting employers to seek repayment through deductions from wages.

And the last resort was the use of collection agencies or applying for a court summons.

But he added: “Someone who has been overpaid housing benefit may move address and move out of the borough without telling the council their new address.

“The Council uses tracing facilities to try and find the new address but sometimes we are not able to trace them and may write off the overpayment as a result.”

Kevin Buttery, leader of Amber Valley Borough Council, said that when overall expenditure on housing benefit in 2015-16 - £31.5m - was taken into account, the £92,754 of written-off overpayments equated to just 0.29% of total spend.

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ”Council tax is a large outlay of family bills and it is important they receive value for money. There will be times when it is not cost effective to retrieve debt but the council needs to work hard to ensure they are bringing down the errors in their system.”