STAFF at Swindon Brough Council are significantly quicker at turning around new applications for housing benefit than other authorities.

Between April 2018 and June 2018, new claimants waited 14 days on average before their application was completed, according to Department for Work & Pensions data.

That’s below the British average of 23 days, which includes weekends.

According to the figures, the local authority processed 381 new cases during the three-month period.

In total, there were 5,384 housing benefit claimants in Swindon over that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had to wait the same time.

Councillor Keith Williams is the cabinet member for corporate and customer services.

He said: “This is very pleasing. There has been a lot of work on digitisation at the council and improving and refining our processes to speed things up.

"We’ve had success in some areas and less in others - but I’m glad to see that our housing benefits team are doing so well.”

Coun Williams explained that he thought it was particularly important that claims for housing were handled swiftly: “Making sure there’s a roof over your head, and having security of shelter is one of those fundamental things that are vital to everybody.

“It’s important in many areas - in addressing homelessness, which is something we’re working hard on.”

As well as being handled in Wat Tyler House, applications for housing benefit are processed by Capita staff outside Swindon.

Coun Russell Holland, the cabinet member for finances said: “We are aware of the importance of this for individuals who need help paying their rent.

“The processing of housing benefits claims by the council is undertaken in partnership with Capita, who ensure that the council always has the appropriate level of resources to make payments accurately and promptly.”

Swindon was quicker at dealing with current claimants who had changed their living circumstances, than those applying for the first time.Those applications took on average just three days to complete

Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent and their savings are below £16,000, or are on a low income or other benefits.

The amount paid depends on whether they rent from the council, or privately, their salary and whether they have any spare rooms.