Smart phone apps, e-learning for staff, and anti-fraud interactive maps are just some of the tools councils should use to root out fraudsters cheating local taxpayers out of billions of pounds each year according to Communities Minister Marcus Jones.
The minister today (23 March 2016) launched top tips which will help councils to root out the fraudsters cheating local taxpayers out of billions of pounds each year.
Mr Jones said the new advice would be invaluable to help them “find, catch and prosecute the fraudsters”.
The practical guidance for all of local government will help them claw back the estimated £2 billion lost every year to fraud and shine a light on innovative technologies and clever practices employed by the leading councils.
Local Government Minister Marcus 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.
Anti-corruption Tsar Sir Eric Pickles 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.
The 6C’s crucial for catching cheats
Councils have received £35 million government funding to help housing tenancy fraud and clamp down on business rates evasion, as well as cheats through procurement in fraud, and social care and health tourism.
Today, Mr Jones set out the 6 steps needed to take the fight to the fraudsters. They 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
- collaboration – working together across boundaries with other local authorities and agencies
Thanks to government investment many councils’ are already doing a good job in countering corruption. These include:
- Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire councils have joined together to catch criminals by enhancing their specialist investigation service with extra training and devising, anti-fraud, corruption, bribery and money laundering e-learning resources for staff to highlight tell-tale signs of cheats
- Telford and Wrekin council who have developed a smart phone app for residents to report suspected fraud which is also available for free for other councils to use until 2018
- Trafford borough council who has used data to map out areas of the business at increased risk of fraud and to stop it before it occurs
The Fighting fraud and corruption locally strategy provides a blueprint for a tougher response to fraud and corruption, setting out the importance for councils to set the tone from the top, to embed a counter fraud culture to look for and prosecute fraud where it is found.
Estimated losses to local government in the 2013 National Fraud Indicator was £2.1 billion, which was broken down as follows:
|Housing tenancy fraud
|Council Tax fraud
|Blue Badge Scheme misuse
In December 2014 the government published the first UK anti-corruption plan which led the way in bringing a coordinated approach to tackling corruption.
In addition, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountability (CIPFA) has established a new centre of excellence for counter fraud which builds on their expertise in this area.
The centre will work in partnership with a wide range of interested parties to support senior local authority leaders in management, governance and finance to tackle fraud and corruption.
The latest national statistics on fraud and error in the benefit system show that losses due to fraud and error in housing benefit are at a record high. Central and local government are working closely together to address these unacceptable losses.