Angus Council has delivered a blow to council tax and benefits cheats which has seen £368,000 of recoverable cash identified and a clutch of council homes seized back.
The authority’s Counter Fraud Team (CFT) underwent major change last year when responsibility for investigating allegations of housing benefit fraud in Angus transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions.
However, the council team continues to identify benefit overpayments and other corporate fraud work remains the responsibility of the council.
Investigators have made effective use of techniques such as data matching to link single person council tax discounts to the electoral roll and the council’s education database.
The council’s scrutiny and audit committee welcomed a report detailing the success of the recovery initiatives which revealed a breakdown of £181,308 of identified housing/council tax benefit overpayments and £79,640 DWP administered benefits overpayments.
The remainder of the recovered total related to payments including single person discounts.
The document also highlighted tenancy fraud, describing it as one of the most significant areas of fraud committed against local authorities. It can include unlawful subletting, failure to use a property as a principal home or using false information to gain a council tenancy. A joint approach involving counter fraud staff and housing colleagues has seen four council properties recovered and two tenancy successions denied.
Governance and consultancy service manager Janine Wilson told councillors: “The team went through a fairly substantial change but all in all it has been a very successful year.”
However, report author Janet Hutchison warned: “In the forthcoming year, the risk of the council being subject to fraud and corruption is not likely to reduce. To ensure that the council maintains its strong counter fraud arrangements, the CFT will continue to carry out data matching exercises to identify fraud and error; publicise, promote and enforce the counter fraud and corruption strategy and framework; continue to develop joint working arrangements with colleagues in housing and will liaise with other local authorities in areas of best practice.”
Scrutiny and audit convener, Councillor Bob Spink said: “Recovering in excess of £360,000 is a very credible achievement and this is good news for the council.”