Tax campaigners welcome Tax
Credits review announcement
THE Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG)
have welcomed HMRC's commitment to carry out a review of all summer 2016
decisions made by Concentrix that have not already been challenged by claimants
and to improve their compliance processes for 2017 and beyond.
In December 2016, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee supported LITRG's
call for an independent review of Tax Credit compliance processes following
significant delays and difficulties faced by Tax Credit claimants trying to deal
with Concentrix, the private company hired by HMRC to carry out Tax Credit
checks on their behalf. This led to HMRC terminating the contract with
Concentrix early and taking back outstanding cases.
The Committee's report acknowledged the serious customer service failures by HMRC and Concentrix but also highlighted other flaws in the compliance processes
that left claimants facing:- 'a decision making system stacked against them.'
The Government's response to that report, commits to carrying out a review of
the remaining cases where Concentrix amended or terminated a Tax Credit Award,
but where the claimant did not request a mandatory reconsideration (the 1st
step in the appeals process). Although they have not gone as far as
commissioning an independent review of Tax Credit compliance processes, HMRC
have committed to closely examine their processes to ensure that the issues that
arose last year are not repeated.
Anthony Thomas, Chairman of LITRG said:- "We welcome the HMRC commitment
to review all of the summer 2016 Concentrix decisions that have not already been
appealed. We would strongly recommend that other Concentrix decisions, as well
as HMRC's own compliance decisions, should be similarly reviewed where the same
flawed processes were followed.
Whilst it is disappointing that HMRC will not be commissioning an independent
review, we are pleased that HMRC have committed to improving the processes for
2017, including giving consideration to further safeguards before payments are
altered or suspended. HMRC will be involving their independent stakeholder
group, of which LITRG are members, in this work and we very much look forward to
working with HMRC to ensure all parts of the process are closely examined and
significant improvements made.
HMRC have a duty to ensure that people are paid the right amount of Tax Credits
and checking claims is an important part of this process. HMRC have so far
tackled error and fraud in the Tax Credits system by investigating claims after
payments have been made and have repeatedly missed opportunities to educate
claimants and to design processes that stop error entering the system in the
first place. We welcome HMRC's response that acknowledges this and commits to
exploring options over the next 12 months to shift the focus of compliance
activity to education and preventing error and fraud at the point of entry to
What happened in 2016, where vulnerable Tax Credit claimants were left without
essential payments to which they were legally entitled, cannot be allowed to
happen again. HMRC's commitments in response to the Work and Pensions Committee
are a good start in preventing a repeat, but there is still much work to be done
in order to improve the claimant journey and ensure that the decisions made are
the right ones based on sound evidence."
Knowsley Council projects
set to benefit from Single Investment Fund
AT last week's Liverpool City Region
Combined Authority meeting, 3 projects designed and submitted by Knowsley
Council were given the green light to go through to the next stage of the Single
Investment Fund (SIF). The 3 successful SIF bids submitted by Knowsley
Council could result in investment of over ₤30m in the Borough.
In addition, 4 projects in Knowsley (submitted by the private sector with the
Council's support) have also got through to the next round of SIF, with a
further 2 projects recommended to explore alternative European funding sources.
In total, just over ₤458m of SIF funding is being invested in the City Region
over the next 5 years by the Combined Authority as part of the City Region's
Devolution Agreement with the Government. The SIF is the key funding tool for
promoting economic growth for the Liverpool City Region, and will support the
delivery of the City Region's strategic priorities, as well as unlock the
economic potential and accelerate growth.
The 3 bids submitted by Knowsley Council are:-
► The Shakespeare North Playhouse – The ₤6.46m funding bid is a
contribution towards the ₤26m costs to construct and develop the Shakespeare
North Playhouse in Prescot Town Centre. The Government has already supported the
project by providing ₤5m of funding, with Knowsley Council also itself
committing ₤6m to the project. The new playhouse will stand just metres from the
original site of the only freestanding purpose-built Elizabethan theatre outside
of London. As well as being an exciting space to perform plays, the centre will
be a magnet for students from all over the world hoping to study Shakespeare and
his work. Whilst recognising Prescot's rich heritage, the development is
expected to have a multitude of benefits for the town and the wider area. It is
estimated that the theatre and education centre will deliver more than ₤10m
worth of value to the local economy, as well as 210 construction jobs and 57
full-time jobs once the facility opens.
► Sustainable access to Prescot and Shakespeare North Playhouse – This
₤6.5m project will include enhancements to the facilities at Prescot train
station, including the installation of lifts from the platforms, public realm
improvements at the station's entrance, and remodeling of the car park.
Improvements will also be made to transport links and the public realm between
the station and Prescot Town Centre, focusing on Eccleston Street, Market Place,
Sewell Street, Manchester Road, Steley Way and Station Road Boulevard.
► Housing development at South Whiston and on land south of the M62 –
known as Halsnead, this development will be one of only 14 new Garden Villages
across the country. This is an exciting new opportunity for residential and
employment development on a significant scale. As demand for new homes in
Knowsley continues to rise, Halsnead will be a key part of Knowsley Council's
ambitious growth plans for the Borough. As well as the ₤17.32m SIF funding, the
project has also attracted funding from the Government.
Knowsley Council's Leader, Councillor Andy Moorhead, said:- "It is
fantastic news not only that the quality of our bids been recognised, but also
that Knowsley is clearly a great place to live, work, visit and invest. With the
support of the Single Investment Fund, we will be able to take forward a number
of initiatives to accelerate economic growth in Knowsley and the wider Liverpool
City Region. I look forward to seeing these projects develop."