Manchester City Council has been forced to employ extra staff to cope with delays of up to six months in the payment of housing benefits after the installation of a new computer system last autumn.
Richard Paver, Manchester City Council's treasurer, told Computer Weekly that it had a backlog of 86,000 items, which was down from a peak of 90,000.
"The backlog continues to receive maximum priority," said Paver. However, in March the council had 70,000 items waiting to be processed, the equivalent of seven weeks' incoming mail.
Paver said the council had an average turnaround time of 98 days during the last six months of 1999 and had now set a target of a 45-day turnaround.
Government guidelines say that payments should take two weeks, but Paver said, "There is no point in setting unrealistic targets, no one would believe us."
The benefits crisis developed after the council abandoned an in-house housing and council tax benefits system and installed a Bull Logos system running on the council's Bull DPS mainframe (Computer Weekly, 2 December 1999).
A report presented to the council's finance and general purposes scrutiny committee in March said it was necessary to investigate "the rational behind the acquisition of the Logos Benefits system and the staffing structure introduced in March 1999".
The report is expected to be published next month.