Fraudsters and benefit cheats who claim more money than they are entitled to will be targeted by new software technology.
South Derbyshire District Council is stepping up measures to catch those who break the law by not correctly advising of their living circumstances.
Benefit cheats often end up in court, but some offenders still slip through the net. This is something the council is aiming to stamp out through the new computer software.
The news comes just over a week since Woodville woman Sally Greenfield was handed a suspended jail sentence after admitting wrongly claiming more than £15,400 at the taxpayers expense.
Councillor Bob Wheeler, leader of the district council, said: "This work is about stepping up the fight against people not telling us of changes in their circumstances, making sure people aren't claiming what they shouldn't be, and making sure the money is going where it should be going – to benefit the residents of South Derbyshire. We know the vast majority of people in the district are honest, hard-working taxpayers and, in many cases, a failure to report a change of circumstances is a genuine mistake. We need to get the message to these individuals too. However, where people have deliberately tried to cheat the system we will not hesitate to take tough action."
It is thought that fraud costs the local Government sector more than £2 billion annually, though in many cases people continue to claim benefits for council tax and housing as they have genuinely forgotten to inform the local authority of a change of circumstances.
As well as issuing postal reminders with benefits-related correspondence and council tax bills, the district council will be using new software technology to better interpret credit data it already has access to detect households where there is likely to have been a recent change in circumstances.
This means that those correctly claiming benefits and discounts will be easily identifiable, while further action can be taken against those claiming fraudulently.
The moves form part of the authority's counter-fraud efforts. These have been boosted by a £176,000 grant awarded by the Government earlier this year.
Types of council tax fraud include failing to register to pay, making a false application for a discount or exemption and failing to report a change of circumstances.
Benefit fraud can mean a failure to declare work or income, not notifying the council that a partner lives at an address, or falsified tenancies.