On this page you’ll find a small selection of questions and answers regarding our service. If there is a specific question you have in relation to housing benefit subsidy, maximising your own subsidy, reducing audit costs or pre-audit health check work, please use the form on our contact us page.
1: WHY IS CLAIMING THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF HB SUBSIDY SO IMPORTANT?
On average, every UK council spends around £50m on Housing and Council Tax Benefit every year. After Education and Social Services this is the biggest expenditure for any council. However, Local Government only receives between 90 – 95% of its HB subsidy entitlement every year. These losses in subsidy may run in to something like tens of millions of pounds. In other words, every LA is potentially losing substantial amounts and in the current economic down-turn it is essential that every Authority is claiming the most amount of subsidy available, especially as the number of claimants is expected to rise significantly as the economy weakens. This in turn puts greater financial pressure on each and every Council. This is why it is so important that every Authority claims the correct amount of subsidy.
2: WHY DO COUNCILS NOT ALWAYS CLAIM THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF SUBSIDY?
The administration of HB and CTB has always been a difficult and labour intensive aspect of Local Government. Due to the complex nature of the HB regulations and the continuing changes to the law surrounding HB it is no surprise that many council officers struggle to keep on top of all the adjustments and modifications related to its administration. Many of these changes have a direct bearing on subsidy which is not always fully understood.
Furthermore, Housing Benefit processing systems providers do not always provide the relevant updates and ‘patches’ at the correct times. This can have a detrimental effect on the amount of subsidy claimed. In other words, monetary amounts can often be allocated to incorrect subsidy cells which may not attract the correct amount of subsidy.
3: WHAT DO BRANCH AND LEE ACTUALLY DO?
In short, and with over 25 years of Housing Benefit experience, Branch and Lee identify amounts that have been allocated to incorrect subsidy cells. These cells are generally cells that do not attract a good percentage return. By removing these erroneous amounts from 0% cells and transferring them to higher, ideally 100% cells, we increase your subsidy by significant amounts. We have been doing this for over 5 years and have increased subsidy for Authorities to the tune of well over £3m.
Branch and Lee also offer a full Pre-Audit service where we significantly reduce the amount of time the external auditor requires in his or her ‘checking’. Branch and Lee concentrate on any cells that can have a negative effect on subsidy and that have proved problematic in the past. By rigorous checking we can eliminate problems before the external auditor locates them and applies unwarranted extrapolation percentages to any given cell. This service is becoming more popular as we ultimately save on audit costs and the time taken to have the external auditor complete his / her audit.
5: DOES ANYONE ELSE DO WHAT BRANCH AND LEE DO?
To the best of our knowledge we do not know of any other company that offers a similar service. Other companies may offer training on subsidy but no other company identifies savings and then goes on to show exactly how to maximise this subsidy.
6: DOES BRANCH AND LEE OFFER MORE THAN ONE WAY TO PAY FOR THEIR SERVICES?
Yes we do. Normally we ask for a small percentage of the amount of subsidy that we increase your claim by in particular cells but sometimes it is better for both us and the client to charge a day rate or even a combination of the two.
7: WHAT IF THE EXTERNAL AUDITOR DOES NOT AGREE WITH THE WORK THAT BRANCH AND LEE HAVE UNDERTAKEN?
To date this has never happened. There are very few people, if any, that know more about HB subsidy than we do. However, should this ever arise we offer a completely free service in which we will return to the Authority and find an acceptable course of action that will suit everyone concerned. Furthermore, we encourage our clients to contact us with any queries that they may have at any time before, during or even after we have finished our consultation. We are only happy once you are.
8: HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE BRANCH AND LEE TO COMPLETE THEIR CONSULTATION AND IDENTIFY THESE INCREASES IN SUBSIDY?
Our initial consultation in which we make sure that the savings we have quoted are actually there will take about two hours. All we require is access to the processing system (View Only) and a printer. Should you decide to employ us to indentify these increases in your subsidy we will return at a time that suits you and usually complete the task in around 8-10 days.
9: WHAT DOES THE AUTHORITY NEED TO PROVIDE BRANCH AND LEE WITH?
We just need a ‘View only’ access to your HB processing system, two desks, preferably near each other and access to a printer. It is as simple as that.
10: DOES BRANCH AND LEE EXPECT PAYMENT BEFORE THE EXTERNAL AUDITOR HAS SIGNED OFF THE CLAIM?
No we do not. Only once the claim has been signed off and an exact figure of how much we have increased your subsidy by do we expect any payment. We are not interested in POTENTIAL savings, we are only concerned with ACTUAL savings.
11: DO BRANCH AND LEE HAVE ANY TESTIMONIALS OR REFERENCES?
Please take the time to read the testimonials from our past and current clients.
I think you will agree what they have to say is very encouraging.
12: CAN WE CONTACT BRANCH AND LEE’S REFERENCES?
You may contact any of our references at any time. We encourage all our potential clients to ask any of our past clients for a reference.
13: HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CAN INCREASE OUR SUBSIDY BY?
Every Authority under claims HB subsidy, some by only a few thousand others by far more considerable amounts. Through 25 years of HB experience and ten years audit experience we can indentify subsidy cells that are clearly under or over stated.
The DWP provide us with a copy of all UK councils’ MPF 720A claim forms that we can compare and scrutinise with past forms and claim forms from other Authorities.
It’s not an exact science but it’s not far off.