St Albans district council to investigate council tax fraud

St Albans district council is investigating fraudulent council tax claims. Picture: Hertfordshire Co

St Albans district council is investigating fraudulent council tax claims. Picture: Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust - Credit: Archant

Investigations are underway to identify fraudulent claims for the single person’s tax discount in St Albans, due to a suspiciously high number of claimants in the district.

An adult living alone is entitled to a 25 per cent reduction in their council tax bill, but St Albans district council has had long-standing suspicions about the number of claims being made.

The council is now subscribed to a government service which pinpoints properties where suspect claims are being made by matching discount claims with other financial and personal data, that the authorities are entitled to hold.

An initial sweep found one person had wrongly claimed a discount worth £1,900 over two years, while two other wrong claims totalled over £800.

The council is seeking recovery of the money, and a more extensive survey of the data is to take place in the coming months. The action was revealed in the anti-fraud report for 2019, given to a meeting of the council's audit committee.

Other investigations found four social housing applicants had given erroneous information, which led to their removal from the council's housing register waiting list.

A council home was taken back from a tenant after inquiries found they were living at another address, and an attempt to purchase the property with an £82,000 discount was stopped. Another right-to-buy bid is likely to be halted after suspicions were raised about the application.

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The council also recovered substantial sums of money from duplicate payments which had been made to some suppliers.

Committee chair Cllr Julian Daly said: "Fraud is a crime that is seen right across the country and it's not surprising that the council is targeted. The victims are real people - families, for instance, who can't get social housing property because others have wrongly obtained such a home.

"Council tax payers also lose out. Fraudsters are stealing money that would otherwise go to support our public services such as our parks, museums, leisure centres and the grants we give to voluntary groups and charities.The council is raising its game in pursuit of offenders through the purchase of the matching service and it will be interesting to see what is uncovered in the months ahead."