Pickles: Over £1bn lost in council tax benefit fraud and error
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Pickles: Over £1bn lost on council tax benefit fraud
More than £1bn has been lost in council tax benefit fraud and error in the last six years, Government figures show.
The figure - being used by communities secretary Eric Pickles to justify plans to devolve the administration of the benefit to councils - equates to around £200m a year.
As part of the Government's welfare reform agenda, it plans on abolishing the current scheme where councils receive rebates on the financial support they provide. Instead, it has told them to come up with their own schemes from next April, cutting expenditure by 10% and handing them the money to administer it.
It has also told them to protect pensioners from cuts, leading to fears that areas with a high proportion of elderly residents will force bigger cuts on working-age claimants.
The Government says giving councils a stake in providing council tax support - claimed by nearly 6 million people - will give councils a stronger incentive to support local firms, cut fraud, promote local enterprise and "end the something for nothing culture and get people into work".
However, opponents have highlighted the difficulty in practically devising a “truly local” scheme with issues around how to prioritise who is shielded from cuts when the overall money is less and pensioners are being protected. There are also concerns over devising new IT schemes ahead of the planned changes next April.
The Government says councils will be expected to save over £400m a year when they begin running local council tax support schemes next year.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: "It is not right that over a billion pounds of taxpayers' money has been lost through council tax benefit fraud and error when there are hard working families and genuinely vulnerable people out there who deserve help with their cost of living expenses.
"Today's figures show that when councils take over the benefit with their local schemes there is lots of money to claw back from wasteful mistakes and fraudsters cheating the system.
"Town halls are already the ones who set and collect council tax so it makes senses that they are the ones who give out the support too. Our reforms will restore the confidence of hard-working taxpayers that the benefits bill is under control and that work pays."