Councils trap £271m in fraud, CIPFA finds

11 Jul 16

Cases of fraud worth £271m were detected or prevented by local authorities in 2015/16, according to figures released by CIPFA today.

The annual CIPFA Fraud and Corruption Tracker found an estimated 77,000 cases were tackled in the year as councils recruit more counter fraud specialists to tackle complex high-value offences such as illegal sub-letting of council houses.

The amount was around £100m higher than in 2014/15, when £171m was indentified across around 57,000 cases.

According to the figures in today’s report, housing scams amounted to the highest value fraud type in 2015/16, with 3,842 totaling £148.4m. Council tax fraud, such as falsely claiming the single occupancy discount, was the most common fraud type with 47,747 cases detected with a total value of £22.4m.

Rachael Tiffen, head of the CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre, said the report showed local authorities were getting smarter and more effective at identifying and tackling fraud.
“This is saving taxpayers’ money and helping to get council houses, disabled parking badges and other vital services to the people who really need them.

“However, more needs to be done. At least 10% of authorities still don’t have a dedicated counter fraud team and there remain many barriers to data sharing that could help to expose fraudsters.”

She called on local authorities to work together to pool resources and information, including agreeing a common approach to recording and measuring fraud.

There are also a number of emerging risks that town halls should be aware of, the review stated. The number of fraud cases involving Right to Buy of council houses increased from 526 in 2014/15 to 870 in 2015/16, with the risk likely to increase as Right to Buy is expanded to housing associations.

Procurement fraud, such as overcharging and falsely billing for goods and services, was also highlighted as a growing threat. The number of reported cases grew from 114 in 2014/15 to 623 in 2015/16.

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