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A new strategy was unveiled in April to help councils find fraudsters and prevent losses, estimated at more than £2 billion a year. ‘Fighting Fraud Locally’ seeks to tackle housing tenancy, council tax, and blue badge parking fraud. It draws on the best practices of councils, offers anti-fraud advice and comes with online products that councils can use to more aggressively tackle fraud, available at www.tisonline.net.
This follows an eight-month review led by the National Fraud Authority (NFA) and supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Local Government Association (LGA), local government groups and council chief executives.
The National Fraud Authority’s Director of Public Sector Fraud Mike Haley said: “‘Fighting Fraud Locally’ signifies an unprecedented collaboration between local and central government to fight frauds that cost councils dear. If councils implement the recommendations and adopt the good practice set out in the strategy significant savings could be made – money which can be used to protect frontline services.
“We hope the free products we have helped develop will make a tangible difference in helping defeat fraudsters who target councils.”
More than 400 individuals from a range of councils and local government bodies were consulted during the writing of the strategy, which meets a recommendation made in ‘Fighting Fraud Together’, the national plan to reduce fraud. Every local authority is now being encouraged to identify and address their own fraud.
Commenting for the LGA, Sevenoaks Councillor Peter Fleming said: “Local government fraud represents just three per cent of the overall figure across the entire public and private sector. This is an indication of the effective and tireless work councils put in to tackling fraud. ‘Fighting Fraud Locally’ provides a valuable tool for councils in both enhancing prevention and developing smarter enforcement. Now is the time for councils to renew their efforts to tackle fraud to save money down the line and protect spending on vital public services.”
The National Fraud Authority has developed an online package of anti-fraud products and guides to support the strategy. These include:
a fraud checklist to help local authorities identify possible gaps in a council’s current fraud response
an online fraud resilience check to help local authorities measure their resilience to fraud and assess if they need to improve
a counter-fraud and corruption e-learning training course to help councils raise levels of awareness among staff and facilitate better detection rates, and
an online ‘fraud zone’ and discussion forum containing examples of anti-fraud best practice.
Baroness Hanham CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Local Government, said: “Fraud is a complete waste of taxpayers money and they should expect us to combat it in every way we can. ‘Fighting Fraud Locally’ provides a blueprint for a tougher response to tackling fraud with many examples of what councils could and should be doing, to bring this under control. I look forward to hearing from councils how they are adopting the best practices highlighted in ‘Fighting Fraud Locally’.
Ian O’Donnell, Executive Director for Corporate Resources at Ealing Council, which expects to save £7m, tackling council tax fraud, said: “Fraudsters use every trick in the book to steal from honest taxpayers so councils need to be much smarter about working together to catch them out. In Ealing alone we’re saving millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money by tackling fraud more effectively, so across the country this work will make a massive difference.”