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15 Nov 2013

Much fraud slipping past councils

Councils in England uncovered 107,000 cases of fraud worth a total of £178m last year, reports the BBC. (h/t Dave)

Housing benefit and council tax benefit frauds accounted for £120m of the total revealed.

The Audit Commission said more than three-quarters of the cases had been detected by just a quarter of councils. It added that this raised questions about efforts to root out fraud by some local authorities.

Overall, the number of fraud instances fell 14% from the previous year but the average amount of cash involved rose.

The government said councils needed to "go further" to root out corruption.

The commission's annual survey, for 2012-13, found housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud accounted for £120m.

Some 79 district councils found no non-benefit fraud at all, while 76% of instances were reported by just 25% of councils.

The total number of frauds detected was down 14% on the previous year, but the cash involved fell by just 1%. This meant the average loss from each case rose by 15% to £1,664.

Commission chairman Jeremy Newman questioned the patchy nature of detection across England:
If the other 75% councils had found as much, we would see much higher overall rates of fraud detection. Not to detect a single case of non-benefit fraud does raise concerns about the priorities and resources in those councils to tackle fraud. I would urge all councils to review their local policies to ensure they are doing all they can to detect and record fraud cases.
Communities Minister Baroness Stowell said:
It is good that councils detected £178m of fraud last year, but they need to go further. Councils and taxpayers are losing £2bn a year from this criminal activity. By tackling fraud, councils can help save money to protect front-line services and keep council tax down for law-abiding citizens.

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