Stepping up battle on fraud

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People who falsely claim benefits or council tax discounts have been given a stark warning from Daventry District Council.

DDC’s strategy group discussed the matter on Thursday night last week, and made a series of recommendations about how to improve collection of council tax and other bills while homing in on benefit fraudsters.

The steps include better computer systems to allow cross referencing between claims, making it easier to see people’s credit reports, and employing a private firm to check on those claiming the single person’s council tax discount.

DDC leader, Cllr Chris Millar, said: “We have been given money to help us improve our tax collection.

“We are looking at upgrading one piece of software that would allow staff to see debtors’ credit reports easier, meaning they can make faster decisions about how best to proceed.

“We are also looking at a piece of software that allows us to cross-reference benefit claims.

“That means our staff will be able to see if there are more than one claim for a particular address, which will help them tackle fraud.

“We in Daventry district also have a relatively high number – I believe it’s around 30 per cent – of households claiming the single person council tax discount of 25 per cent.

“That could be down to high proportion of elderly people living alone, or younger people.

“We ask people if they live alone, but how can we be sure? Unless staff actually know the person there’s often no easy way to find out.

“There are companies out there which specialise in doing this work.

“We’re not saying every single claim will be investigated right away, but if people are claiming they live alone when they don’t then they’re likely to be found out in the near future.

“The situation is that the council is having its funding squeezed, so we need to make sure we are maximising the amount of tax and other payments that should be coming to us.

“We want to ensure people are not claiming things they shouldn’t be and that people are paying what they should be. That’s only fair.

“And the less fraud we have the less every other taxpayer has to pay to cover those losses.”