West Suffolk stops £200k being lost to council tax fraud

West Suffolk Council has faced an £11.2m financial hit from Covid-19. Picture: ARCHANT

West Suffolk Council stopped more than £200,000 in public money from being lost to council tax fraud last year - Credit: Archant

More than £200,000 of public money has been halted from being lost to council tax and housing fraud in west Suffolk, latest data shows.

West Suffolk Council's annual fraud report has been published ahead of an audit scrutiny committee this week, in which it revealed that 203 ineligible cases of single person council tax discount were stopped in the 2020/21 financial year, equating to £158,749.

In addition, 20 cases of inappropriate council tax reduction were curbed totalling £24,402 in saved cash, five social housing properties were recovered, and 69 cases of housing benefit fraud were referred to the Single Fraud Investigation Service - a partnership between local councils, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs.

The report said that eight properties were found which were not on the council tax database, and one business premises was not on the business rates roll. Those have now been rectified and means more than £30,000 was prevented from being lost.

The figures mark a significant improvement from 2019/20 when 39 homes were found to not be on the council tax roll, meaning more than £70,000 in backdated bills had to be made, and single person council tax cases totalled more than £230,000.

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The authority in its report said: "West Suffolk Council spends millions of pounds of public money each year on essential local services. It is essential that we continue to protect and preserve our ability to provide these services by ensuring assets are protected against risk of loss or damage.

"Fraud, theft and corruption are an ever-present threat to the resources available in the public sector. They are costly, in terms of both reputational risk and financial losses.

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"Whilst there are mitigating controls in place to manage the risks of fraud, theft and corruption, these risks cannot be completely eradicated.

"West Suffolk Council recognises the vulnerability to fraud and key fraud risk areas and takes positive action to minimise those risks. Emphasis is placed on preventative and early detection work in areas at greatest risk of fraud."

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