Edinburgh faces benefits backlog months after move to new system

Edinburgh City Council is struggling to overcome a backlog of council tax and housing benefit claims after it moved to new...

Edinburgh City Council is struggling to overcome a backlog of council tax and housing benefit claims after it moved to new systems last year.

The system, based on iWorld software from SX3, replaced an ICL mainframe-based system. It was installed as of the council's £150m Smart City partnership with BT.

The system went live last September after staff spent seven weeks transferring data from the legacy system, but a backlog resulting from the implementation period and printing problems forced the council to employ up to 40 temporary staff to clear cases.

At its peak last November the backlog of council tax and housing benefit correspondence and claims reached 30,000 items.

Mike Peterson, Edinburgh Council's head of revenues and benefits, said the council had almost eliminated the backlog for public and private sector housing and owner-occupiers would be cleared in mid-February.

Problems printing from the system were a serious issue, according to Peterson. He said, "Most of the difficulties with the new system related to problems with printed output, which is not related to the SX3 software. The bills were either not being printed or were not being printed to an acceptable quality." The problem has now been "substantially resolved", he added.

However, the Citizens Advice Bureau in Edinburgh said the implementation of the system was still causing problems for local residents. One bureau manager referred to tracing council tax and housing benefit files as an "interminable problem".

Council officials are planning to implement image workflow technology in July, which will enable council tax and housing benefits documents to be scanned into the system.

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