Communities minister Lord Ahmad has announced extra funding for a range of council-led projects to claw back billions of pounds of taxpayers' money lost every year to fraud.
The department is providing a further £16m to councils who are raising their game through a range of innovative projects across the country to tackle fraud. This clamp down on money wasted through fraud will tackle social housing tenancy cheats, business rates evasion, procurement fraud and social care and health tourism. This money comes on top of £19 million already announced earlier in the year to help councils fight housing tenancy fraud.
Many of the successful bids came from partnerships of councils that are using digital tools to enable anti-fraud work - examples include:
- a partnership in south west London, led by Wandsworth, which will set up a counter fraud service across 5 boroughs combining expertise and intelligence to clamp down on social housing tenancy fraud and stop corporations ripping off local taxpayers
- dozens of councils have joined forces to develop a smart phone app to enable residents to easily alert them to cases of suspected fraud and expose prosecutions to act as a deterrent; this is being led by Bromley on behalf of 38 councils but more than 100 others have expressed an interest to opt in and share the benefits
- a project to tackle health tourism in Croydon by working with government departments and cross checking data to identify those who are ineligible and therefore reduce pressure on the local health service, cut hospital waiting times and reduce demand for council services
Estimated losses to local government in the 2013 National Fraud Indicator was £2.1bn, broken down into:
- Housing tenancy fraud - £845m
- Procurement fraud - £876m
- Payroll fraud - £154m
- Council Tax fraud - £133m
- Blue Badge Scheme misuse - £46m
- Grant fraud - £35m
- Pension fraud - £7.1m
The minister was clear that councils must do all they can to address fraud and also to turn idle assets into money to protect frontline services. The government is allowing councils to use money raised from the sale of assets, such as empty buildings and redundant brownfield land, to help pay for the costs of improving local services as well as keeping Council Tax down.