Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is urging people across the country to report fraud committed against the public purse as new research reveals one in 10 people know someone dishonestly claiming a discount on their Council Tax Bill.
Current rules mean any household with only one adult living at the address can claim a 25% discount on their Council Tax Bill.
In a recent poll of 2,000 UK adults, one in 10 people admitted to knowing someone who had falsely claimed this discount over the last 12 months, with this figure rising to almost one in six in London, but only one in 24 in Scotland (4 %).
Additionally, 10 per cent of the adults surveyed didn’t view falsely claiming Single Person Discount as illegal, while one in 13 believed it was a ‘reasonable’ thing to do.
Research carried out by the Institute for Government revealed Local Authorities’ spending power fell by 16 per cent between 2010 and 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to a further £11.9 billion financial burden.
This means any fraud committed against councils reduces their ability to fund many of the services residents rely upon.
With Council Tax Bills currently being issued by post and email this month, Cifas is urging people who are aware of someone defrauding the council to speak up and report them.
Commenting on the findings, Cifas’ Director of Public Sector, Rachael Tiffen, said: “The economic impact of the pandemic has put significant strain on council budgets. The fraudulent abuse of schemes designed to help those in need unnecessarily restricts funding for many of the services residents rely upon daily.
“Rises in the cost of living may be forcing people to look for ways to save money on their household bills. However, defrauding councils, or any organisation, is never okay and shouldn’t be viewed as a way to cut outgoings.”
He added: “Fraud in both the public and private sector is a serious issue and poses a threat to national security. The public are rightly outraged by the widespread fraudulent abuse of Covid-19 loans and grants, however this research suggests more common abuses of public funds aren’t viewed with the same level of dismay.”
The annual loss from fraud to councils across the UK is estimated to be £2.1 billion, with the largest loss from housing tenancy fraud.
Gemma Young, Assistant Director of Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud Shared Service at Waltham Forest Council, explained: “Many councils have successful dedicated and accredited investigation teams and have powers available to investigate and prosecute offenders, as well as recovering the proceeds of crime. ”
You can report suspected fraud anonymously through your council website.
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