Monthly Archives: October 2012

Coventry’s benefit appeal waiting times still above the national average

Bob Ainsworth has welcomed the news that there has been a small reduction in the average waiting time for benefit appeal hearings in Coventry, but he remains concerned that the average appeal waiting time in the city is persistently high and considerably above than the national average.     

In a letter to Bob last week, the Ministry of Justice revealed that appellants whose appeals are heard in Coventry are likely to wait an average of 30.8 weeks for the disposal of their appeal, an additional 11.3 weeks when compared with the national average of 19.5 weeks. 

The letter went on to confirm that a number of measures to bring down the average waiting time for an appeal hearing in Coventry, including the introduction of additional venue capacity, had resulted in average waiting times at the Coventry venue reducing from 39.5 weeks in April 2012 to 30.8 weeks in June 2012.

However, they acknowledged that waiting times in Coventry continue to remain persistently above the national average and resolved to use additional venues in Leamington Spa and Nuneaton from November 2012 to take on some of the appeals which would otherwise have been heard at the Coventry venue.  They said this would mean that an additional 200 cases per month could be heard, possibility reducing the live load of cases at Coventry by 30%.

Bob said:

“Whilst the introduction of additional venue capacity has had a slight positive impact on average appeal waiting times in Coventry, it is clear that appellants in our city continue to wait considerably longer for their appeals to be heard than those in other areas of the country. 

“I hope the use of additional venues in Leamington Spa and Nuneaton from November this year will have a further positive impact and at the very least ensure that average waiting times in Coventry reach parity with the national average.

“However, it is clear that the introduction of additional venue capacity, although welcome, in and of itself will not resolve the problems of an appeals system that appears to have reached breaking point.  The system is in overload because in many cases the original decision to disallow a claimant’s benefit is incorrect and draconian.  The official statistics highlight just how flawed some of the decision making is, for example in 2011-12 in Coventry 51% of Income Support appeals and 43% of Disability Living Allowance appeals were decided in favour of the appellant. 

“These figures show that had the original decision been made correctly, there would have been nearly half as many appeals on these two benefits alone.  This would have freed up capacity and ensured appeals were heard in a timelier manner.  It is essential, therefore, that the Government not only increases capacity, but also takes action now to increase the accuracy of decision making.”   

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Government needs to get a grip on energy bills – and stop people getting ripped off

Labour’s campaign to help families struggling with soaring energy bills is gathering momentum. We have launched our SwitchTogether campaign to help families get a better deal. If you’re interested in signing up and seeing if you can get a better deal through collective switching, visit www.switchtogether.org.uk.

We’re also upping the pressure on this shambolic Government to sort the energy market out – particularly the energy giants who are ripping people off.

Labour called a debate in the Commons last week to demand real help for people who are paying more because the Government has failed to stand up to these companies. As we’ve come to expect, this Government has the wrong priorities and is standing up for the wrong people.

There are massive energy challenges facing this country and we need to think seriously about how we’re going to ensure there is enough affordable energy to go round. Unlike this Government, Labour is prepared to stand up to powerful vested interests in the energy industry. Our plans would provide real help now, as well as reform the way our energy market works for the long-term. We would require energy companies to put all over-75s on their cheapest tariff, which could save as many as four million pensioners as much as £200 a year from their annual energy bills. We would force the energy generating companies to pool the power they produce and make it available to any energy retailer, in an attempt to open the market and to put downward pressure on prices. And we would abolish Ofgem, the energy market regulator which is failing to keep the prices in check, and create a tough new energy watchdog with a statutory duty to monitor wholesale and retail energy prices, and the power to force energy suppliers to pass on price cuts when the cost of wholesale energy falls.

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Number of People Receiving Winter Fuel Payments Falls in Coventry

Bob Ainsworth is concerned by official statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions which show that the total number of Winter Fuel Payment recipients in Coventry and the West Midlands fell significantly in 2011-12.  

The figures, which emerged in response to a parliamentary question asked by Bob, show that the number of Winter Fuel Payment recipients plummeted between 2010-11 and 2011-12 by 290 in Coventry North East constituency, by 780 in Coventry Local Authority area and by 9,970 in the West Midlands region.    

Total number of winter fuel payment recipients in Coventry and west midlands
  Coventry North East constituency Coventry local authority West midlands region
2011-12 17,530 56,730 1,168,920
2010-11 17,820 57,510 1,178,890

The reduction in last year’s figures occurred as a result of the Government’s decision to raise the Winter Fuel Payment qualifying age in line with the increase in women’s state pension age.  This means that fewer people were eligible to receive Winter Fuel Payments than would otherwise have been the case under the old qualifying criteria. This trend looks likely to continue as the Government is gradually raising the qualifying age from 60 to 65.

To qualify this winter (2012-13), people must be born on or before 5 July 1951. Qualifying dates for the next two winters are:

Winter            Born on or before

2013/14           5 January 1952

2014/15           5 July 1952

Bob said:

“It is extremely disappointing to see such a massive drop in the number of people receiving Winter Fuel Payments as a result of this Government’s actions. 

“Not only has the Tory-led Government cut the value of Winter Fuel Payments, they are now making people wait much longer to benefit from these payments.  

“With soaring energy bills contributing to a cost of living crisis that is affectingthousands of households in Coventry, it is disappointing that fewer people are benefiting from assistance with their energy bills through Winter Fuel Payments.

“There are already around 26,000 households in Coventry living in fuel poverty and there is a real concern that this number could increase as a result of the change in the qualifying criteria for Winter Fuel Payments”.

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