Thursday, 26 November 2009

HOW MANY STAFF AT TDC ARE WORKING FROM HOME?


For those who have tried to contact officers at TDC and have either left an answer-phone message that has not been replied to or have been asked to ring back; then often been unable to talk to the officer you wished to,  did you ever imagine that TDC has an agreed 'Home Working' Policy?
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It would seem that TDC is being very reluctant to admit this policy and just how many officers are involved and at what level.  It would seem that any officer can apply to be home -based as a contractual arrangement and that others are involved in 'informal home-working' arrangements.
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The excuse being offered for 'informal home-working' is that this is needed to meet specific deadlines or manage 'work-load' pressures.
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So what is the true situation at TDC?  The tax-payer has paid for refurbishment, new furniture , new carpets and new windows so that staff can work at home?
I have no complaint about highly paid Directors and Senior Managers taking work home after normal working hours and working into the night or at week-ends, many of us have had to do this in the public and private sectors, so why shouldn't they?
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This cosy arrangement at TDC is an insult to hard working and often less well paid Council Tax payers and should be stopped. Can you imagine other public sector workers at the same game? The mind boggles at the thought?

e.g. Where is Blue-Watch today and why aren't they responding to the fire at Dreamland? " All on 'home-working today, Guv!".  Why is Form 8 S  not being taught History today? " Their teacher is working at home today, Head, "   Why is PC Smith not dealing with that fracas at Westgate Station? " It's his day at home, Superintendent!".
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I hope that those who are in business or self-employed in Thanet, will contact their Cllrs and express the outrage and disgust they might feel about our Council employees being allowed to work 'at home'!

UPDATE -THU 26 NOV
I could barely restrain my laughter, this morning.
Yesterday I rang Planning at TDC on behalf of my daughter,concerning her simple planning application. I was put through to the officer dealing with the matter.  He was not in but I left my enquiry with a request for him to ring me, on his answerphone. As I had not received a reply by late this morning, I rang his direct number again and received his telephone recorded message yet again.. I declined to leave a message and instead rang the main Planning Office.  I was told that ..xxx... was not in AS HE WAS WORKING AT HOME! Barely stifling a hoot of laughter, I passed my request for him to contact me and was assured this would be e-mailed to him and that he would then ring me from his home! As yet, still no call from this hard working officer, 'working from home'.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is not only that there is rarely a response to phone calls and messages, it is also rare to receive any reply to correspondence. Not only are we ignored by our elected representatives from the Ezekiel Party but also by TDC officers. Makes you wonder what our council tax is being spent on.

Richard Card said...

Bertie

I just encountered the same thing with Bolton Council. I have a buy to let in their area. With a tenant of the "pocket the housing benefits and don't pay me rent variety."

This is a long post but I think you will be amazed at what I will tell you.

Under the Local Housing Allowance rules a Landlord cannot apply to a council to get his rent paid directly till the claimant tenant is over eight weeks in rent arrears.

Our tenants went into rent arrears in three stages when they decided they had more important things to spend their LHA on. To insure their seven seater car, to repair the gearbox in same, to go on holiday.

When we phoned them about another non payment of rent it tuyrned out they were away on holiday. So wondering what they had done with their Staffie terrier we drove all the way up to Bolton and went in. Where I bowled over a bloke sort of crouching behind the front door.

One undeclared lodger.

Who told us about the employment one of our tenants has been doing !

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Richard Card said...

Now when a landlord accepts rent direct from council he also cops liability to repay benefits overpayments. So it is necessary to get the tenants' claim clean before the direct payment starts.

So I raised a Bolton Council fraud investigation.

The result of this is I now do not get the full rent because they are recovering the overpayment my tenants fiddled and it is my problem to make my tenants pay me the balance.

BUT, ever the fair player, I phoned Bolton Council to say they had got their sums wrong.

And ended up representing my tenants' position against the council bad arithmetic.

What had happened ?

If they had declared a lodger ... they would have been allocated an extra bedroom on their LHA rate. Another £46 of benefit a week. This would be capped at £15 the maximum LHA payable above actual rent.

It seems a fairly easy exercise to add £15 to actual rent ? To determine the max LHA award.

Then they deduct an amount for the lodger payments.

If they treat him as an adult non dependant and he is on a low wage or benefits they deduct £7.40.

You will now realise that if they had told the council they had a lodger they would have had £7.60 more benefit per week legitimately to put in their own pocket and be able to keep what the lodger gave them as lodging money. Making their living standard legitimately £47.60 above social security rate.

Richard Card said...

I imagine you are seeing where this is going New Labour and LHA rules.

(A single mum with her wits about her can move the father of her kids in declare his being there claim he is a lodger and get paid an extra bedroom rate of LHA less £7.40 ... now try doing them for collusive separation or cohabitation etc)

So what did Bolton Council do ?

They treated the lodger as an adult non dependant and that he had failed to declare his earnings. Thus they applied the maximum adult non dependant deduction (for a lodger earning top salary) which is about £47.75 per week.

This of course would show that by failing to declare a lodger my tenants had derived an unlawful gain against the benefits system.

And they attended an intervoew under caution. And an overpayment recovery was set in place.

BUT I was doing the sums to second guess the council. Six phone calls, five emails, two letters. I was initially asking them to check whether they had inputted £495 the calendar monthly rent as a four weekly figure. And I was telling them the monthly rate equatesto £114.23 weekly. Add the £15 cap and derive max LHA entitlement of £129.23. Let me know when you have done this and I will correct the next error you made etc. So they would not be told.

Six weeks of this. Until finally I got one of them on the phone and said "Have you a pen, a pad and a calculator ?" Please put in 495 and muliply it by 12. Now tell me how many weeks in a ayear. Right so now divide by 52. Now tell me what your calculator is reading.

£114.23

Now add £15 tell me what it is reading ?

Now deduct £7.40 and tell me what it is reading ?

Now deduct £12.80 the fraud overpayment recovery rate and tell me what it is reading ?

Now deduct the balance of the £15 cap ... deduct £7.60 because you can increase your fraud recovery rate by that amount. Tell me what it is reading ?

Richard Card said...

Now pick up your pen and copy that number on to your pad. And when your computer with your various inputting finally delivers unto you that number then you can invoice my tenants and copy it to me .....

So I had caught them out getting the sums wrong and manipulating sums to form the basis for an interview under caution and calculating an overpayment for a period they had actually been underpaid.

On the work aspect it turns out the tenant had gone on an official adult apprenticeship schme and signed off at the Jobcentre. She thought the Jobcentre notified the council who pay housing benefits.

She was actually trying to work Bertie without fiddling. She did not realise she had to tell the council separately as she thought the pathways to work type advisor at Jobcentre did ALL the admin.

So I phoned my tenant and she said she was due to go to Bolton Council yesterday to accept a formal caution.

OH NO THEY DON'T I ROARED. I been second guessing them.

So I get a phone call from a lady who says "I work from home and I have been dealing with the LHA claim from the start". It appears that she did not want to write to me when a nice friendly phone call from her home number withheld phone would be so much better in the circumstances.

Yeah right.

So I emailed andphoned the fraud officer who thought she was going to caution my tenant.

Result my tenant got a phonbe call two hours before the caution meeting Bolton Council had calledit off and want more time to do the sums.

I have emailed the council frauid officer again. Oh no you don't. You held an interview under caution based on a comedy of manipulative error sums. You start again or you back off.

"But you are the person who reported your tenant"

YES and I am also the person who insists on DUE PROCESS OF LAW.

If the girl is trying to work as a nursery nurse and she signed off then she does not bneed a caution on her record to come up on enhanced CRB disclosure.

So all this fiasco of typical public sector parasite admin ... I phone the council ... queue to await a customer services officer ... explain the sums ... they interpret it as they feel fit and email the woman sat at home getting the sums continuously wrong.

Of course now I can see what has been happening (New Labour !)

Benefits tenants have been contacting landlords advertising on Gumtree ... "I can get 4 bed rate of LHA .. if I rent your 2 or 3 bed house if you put the rent up to 4 bed rate we can split the difference"

Then LHA is reviewed in an area against the median rent .. and the median rent has mysteriously crept higher ... so the LHArate for that area creeps ups for all properties and LHA entitlement goes up !!

And the wily clamant starts declaring partners as lodgers to get an extra bedroom rate of LHA.

The only person I can think of who might believe I made this up is Lord Matt the self styled champion of what he sees as the impoverished claimant classes.

I understand that New Labour has a think tank reviewing whether LHA had its intended effect of increasing fexibility of claimants to take work and enabling independence of money handling for claimants.

And they are mystified as to why there is an increase of overcrowding in properties and the LHA bill keeps increasing !!

Phone me Gordon before we vote you out ... I will tell you what went wrong for free. Too much social theory and not enough pragmatism

Bertie Biggles said...

Richard, thanks for that tale. I have posted it in full, although it is not specific to the 'post'.

Anonymous said...

I also was assigned a Tdc Planning Officer to answer my enquiry.
It took her 6 weeks to reply to an email. Phoning was a waste of time as she worked from home, and only attended the office on thurs etc. I finally got an answer by constantly phoning an engaged line, from one of her colleques.
These people are paid to provide a public service, and should at least be available/acessible in normal working hours!!!

Anonymous said...

Another planning officer told my friend fighting a plan that'll make his house unsellable, 'When the plan is agreed....', not 'If the plan is agreed...'. Draw your own conclusions from that comment.

When he tried repeatedly to get hold of the officer he was told constantly 'in the office but very busy, will phone you'. No reply to constant phone calls asking to speak to the officer urgently so I guess said officer was actually at home as well.

Anonymous said...

the planning dept is meant to be less busy in a "downturn" thus there should be officers ready to answer queries etc. when the planning dept were still open for business (now at gateway) there used to be a very efficient receptionist who would more or less bully the officers to come out and deal with the customers as she couldnt face all the impatient complainers but i think that has gone now with Gateway (as has the officer who set it up by the way!)

Anonymous said...

Berts have you seen the Private eye article with our man from Panama and mayor featuring - sad when the pool of councillors gets so low - they have to be Charter trustees it think? that a candidate is chosen who may bring the town into disrupte isnt it? surely it is time for one mayor of Thanet - not 3 in it (don't forget all the cars they run and drivers etc that we pay for!)

Bertie Biggles said...

No I haven't 13:28 but will now look out for it. Is it in Rotten Boroughs? If so that will be TDc's 3rd appearance in 12 months or so! Time for Private Eye to do a regular feature?

Anonymous said...

I was told it is the disabled who paid for the windows.

Anonymous said...

I understand from some gossip in the pub even some of the directors work from home !!!! rather than taking sick days they now have working from home days. I wonder who thought that one up, could it be people who don't even live in thanet but pour all our money down the drain (or into carpets and double glazing so that when they do bother to come in they are nice and cosy)