Revised local government counter fraud strategy launched

A revised local government counter fraud and corruption strategy has been launched to help councils tackle fraud in their areas.

Fraud is estimated to cost councils around £2.1 billion a year, with procurement fraud costing around £876 million, housing tenancy fraud costing around £845m, payroll fraud costing around £154m, and council tax fraud under localised discount schemes thought to be around £133 million.

Another growing area is fraudulent applications for business rates exemptions and reliefs, as well as fraudulent applications under the government’s expanded Right to Buy programme.

The guidance was set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Counter Fraud Centre. It suggests that councils should use tools such as smart phone apps and anti-fraud interactive maps to help root out fraudsters, as well as utilise e-learning as part of a structured programme to increase staff awareness of fraud and corruption.

Communities Minister Marcus Jones also set out ‘six Cs for catching cheats’ for councils to consider. These are: culture – creating culture where beating fraud is part of daily business; capability – making sure counter fraud measures is appropriate to the range of risk; capacity – deploying the right level of resource; competence – having the right skills; communication – raising awareness, sharing information and deterring fraudsters; and collaboration – working together across boundaries with other local authorities and agencies.

Announcing the new guidance, Jones said: “We are determined to find, catch and prosecute the fraudsters who rip-off councils denying taxpayers billions of pounds.

“Across government we are clamping down on corruption and I’d urge councils to make full use of these suggestions to get tough on fraud.”

Sir Eric Pickles, Anti-corruption Tsar, said: “A small minority cheat hard working taxpayers out of billions of pounds every year but better prevention, detection and prosecution will mean we can not only throw these thieves in jail – but also recover cash for our frontline services.

“The tips we are publishing today – alongside the millions of pounds we have already invested – will ensure that town halls crack down on those who put our services at risk.”