New software helps St Albans council crack down on fraud

St Albans District Council has invested in new softward to help it stamp out housing and tax fraud.

St Albans District Council has invested in new softward to help it stamp out housing and tax fraud. Picture: St Albans City and District Council - Credit: Archant

Anti-fraud investigations by St Albans District Council are making good progress following the introduction of a new software.

The council is currently investigating what appears to be an unusually high number of people claiming a single person’s discount of 25 per cent for council tax.

Last year, it subscribed to a government service that pinpoints properties where suspect claims are being made.

It does so by matching discount claims with other financial and personal data that public bodies are entitled to hold.

During the first three months of this year, 139 people were identified as high risk and were sent a letter.

They will be investigated further by the council’s Internal Audit and Revenues Teams when they finish COVID-19 duties.

The council has also been looking for cases of tenancy fraud using another matching tool that it has acquired. This highlighted four council homes where it was suspected the named tenant might be living elsewhere.

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Two of those properties have been taken back by the council and given to people on the housing register who had been waiting for a permanent home. Enquiries are continuing into the other two properties.

A report on the council’s anti-fraud activities were given to a meeting of the Audit Committee on Wednesday.

The meeting heard a new focus of the anti-fraud work is more vigorous checking of all right-to-buy council home applications.

This includes ensuring the tenants’ details are accurate and the council is not being used to launder money that may be from the proceeds of crime.

The anti-fraud drive has also been boosted by the launch of the council’s new website which is more user friendly.

It is easier for people to report any suspicions they have of fraud. This has resulted in more tip-offs this past month than in the last six months of 2019.

Councillor Julian Daly said: “Over the last few months, the council has greatly improved its ability to identify fraud by the use of computer programmes which can pinpoint suspects.

“We will look to recover any money which the Council is owed and free up properties that are in the wrong hands.”

Every report will be thoroughly investigated as part of the council’s efforts to stamp out fraud and corruption.

Reports can be made to