Crackdown on Benefit Fraudsters Brings in the Money

Council's fraud busting computer programme catches false claimants

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Ealing Council says it has recovered more than £2million this year by cracking down on residents falsely claiming to live alone in order to cut their council tax bills.

If only one adult lives in a property as their main home they are entitled to the sole occupancy discount which reduces council tax by 25%.

The council tax revenues team created a computer programme to check details of residents claiming the discount against more than nine million records dating back 10 years held by other services such as parking, libraries and housing, as well as external records such as credit card applications to ensure they are the only adult at home.

One woman who had been claiming the discount since 1996 now faces paying £5,597.80 to the council after a check of records revealed that her adult children, husband and at one stage an au pair had been living in the home while she was claiming the discount. Officers discovered that the woman was not eligible to the discount claimed on her Band F property from 1998 until 2011.

The investigation also revealed that the woman’s husband wrote to the council’s parking service on letter-headed paper from the address to dispute a parking offence and stated that there were three other cars in the household.

The council’s revenues team was recognised for its innovative approach at the national Fighting Fraud awards on Thursday 6 December.

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for Finance and Performance said: “It’s astonishing that people who are quite happy to benefit from council services are unwilling to pay their fair share for them. I am proud that the team’s determination to crack down on this fraud and recover money so that it can be ploughed back into services has been recognised.”

Residents claiming sole occupancy discount should notify the council if their circumstances change.
Changes in circumstances which can affect a person’s entitlement to sole occupancy discount include:
* Another adult coming to stay at the property and it becoming their main home
* A child living in the home reaching the age of 18
* Leaving the property on a permanent basis
Use your council tax bill to report changes online at www.ealing.gov.uk

12 December 2012