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Ealing and Northfield

Ealing Times getting it wrong again

It is perhaps unfair of me to keep criticizing Benedict Moore Bridger and the Ealing Times. The paid for local paper, the Gazette, is perhaps even worse in terms of accuracy and bias but it refuses to go online so it is hard to rebut. That said the Ealing Times is online so he who lives by the sword …

Today the online version of the Ealing Times has a story covering a report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, part of the Department of Work and Pensions, on Ealing’s housing benefit payments service.

Sometimes Ben exaggerates and sometimes he just repeats their press release without showing any understanding of what he is talking about.

The headline of the Times piece is: “Benefits department must reverse ‘deteriorating performance’”. The actual report says: “The inspection focused on the claims processing aspects of London Borough of Ealing’s benefit delivery as it had reported deteriorating performance for processing changes of circumstances during 2005/06.”

MB’s piece says: “A DAMMING report into Ealing Council’s housing benefits service has blamed poor IT equipment and staff errors for a massive backlog of claims.” The actual report says: “Although London Borough of Ealing failed to meet the Department for Work and Pensions minimum requirements for the average time taken to process new claims and changes of circumstances its performance was improving. The standard of verification of claims was good.”

The actual report says: “In 2005/06, London Borough of Ealing administered some £163.8 million in housing benefits, about 18.6% of its gross revenue expenditure.” BM uncritically repeats the 18.6% figure without understanding that the £163.8 million is provided by DWP not Ealing. Ealing’s responsibility, strangely maybe, is just to do the administration, but DWP pays the bills. To express the benefits payments as a proportion of Ealing spending is plain nonsensical.

Our benefits service could be better and its improvement is a priority for the administration. Meanwhile some of our local journalists could sharpen up too.