William Eichler 12 July 2016

Councils detected £271m in fraud last year

Local authority fraud defences saved nearly £300m in 2015/16, accountancy body reveals.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) estimates 77,000 fraud cases worth £271m were detected or prevented by local authorities over the last financial year.

CIPFA’s counter fraud centre concludes from these new figures that councils are recruiting more counter fraud specialists to tackle complex high value offences, such as illegal sub-letting of council houses.

The highest value fraud types this year were housing scams, CIPFA reveals, with 3,842 totaling £148.4m. Council tax fraud was the most common type of fraud with 47,747 cases detected with a total value of £22.4m.

CIPFA also warns of the emerging threat of fraud relating to Right to Buy and procurement. Cases of the former increased from 526 in 2014/15 to 870 in 2015/16 and cases of the latter went from 114 in 2014/15 to 623 in 2015/16.

The average value of each fraud detected in 2015/16 was £1,000 more than last year (£3,500 compared to £2,500) suggesting local authorities are taking a more strategic approach to high-value frauds.

‘Fraudsters beware – local authorities are getting smarter and more effective,’ Rachael Tiffen, head of the CIPFA counter fraud centre, said.

‘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.’

CIPFA warned, however, that at least 10% of authorities do not have a dedicated counter fraud team. They also urged councils to tackle barriers to data sharing.

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