The Staffordshire Counter-Fraud Partnership’s ‘Spot the Cheater’ campaign is to target fraudsters taking advantage of the Council Tax Single Person Discount.
This is a scheme that allows single adult householders to claim a discount of 25 per cent off their Council Tax bill.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy said: “Council tax has continued to be the largest area of identified fraud over the last three years”. The UK Annual Fraud Indicator 2017 estimated that fraudulent single person discounts cost councils and taxpayers £60 million a year.
Fraudsters misrepresent their household composition to the council or fail to inform the council when their circumstances change. This type of fraud has a major impact on the revenue coming into the council, directly affecting funding for vital services for local people.
In Stoke-on-Trent, there are around 40,000 households in receipt of the discount. In the 2019/2020 financial year, the Corporate Fraud Team identified 68 cases of Single Person Discount fraud. This represented £24,868 of public money which would otherwise have fallen into the hands of fraudsters. In the first half of the 2020/2021 financial year, 46 cases have been identified with a value of £20,096. Perpetrators of this type of fraud are required to repay the shortfall in full and serious cases will be subject to prosecution.
Councillor Abi Brown, leader of the city council said: “We recognise that the majority of residents claiming the Single Person Discount are doing so legitimately but our investigators work hard to root out those who wrongly reckon they can cheat the system and get away with it.
“Those who misrepresent their circumstances to the council to claim a discount are cheating the honest residents of Stoke-on-Trent out of public funds which could be spent on essential services. Deterring fraudsters is vital as this type of fraud has a direct financial and social harm impact on local people and local taxpayers.
“The city council has a zero-tolerance approach towards fraud and will always apply the full force of the law to prosecute where appropriate. I would urge all residents to report changes in their household composition as soon as possible and to check their details are up to date.”
Anyone can report suspected fraudulent activity by calling the council’s hotline 01782 236800 or online at https://www.stoke.gov.uk/fraud. All reports will be treated confidentially and can be made anonymously.