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As part of the work undertaken by the Council’s internal auditors in 2017/18, they have identified £350k in overpayments.
The overpayments arise from council tax exemptions, discounts and benefit payments which had been incorrectly claimed. Wherever possible to do so, this money is being recovered.
The Council has a duty to protect the public purse and chases up all overpayments. It uses a number of methods to ensure that applications for benefits and discounts linked to council tax are legitimately claimed.
This includes participating in the National Fraud Initiative which is led by the Cabinet Office and matches electronic data across a number of public bodies with the aim of detecting fraud and error.
The Council is required by law to participate in this exercise and provides data to the Cabinet Office for this purpose. The matches are released to the Council for follow up and investigation to establish whether there is fraud, error or another explanation for the match.
Cllr Richard Brown, Chair of the Audit Cttee at the Council, said: “The National Fraud Initiative is an important tool to help the Council tackle fraud and error and wherever possible, action is taken to recover losses. We are very aware of protecting personal data and the data provided to the Cabinet Office is done in a secure way with only relevant information provided.”
Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member Strategic Finance and Resources, added: “We want to make it very clear that we always chase up any over-payments, whether caused by fraud or by mistakes in the department. As a Council we are absolutely determined to monitor and manage our budget, and this is one of the many examples where we have been able to recoup funds to use on frontline services – and to support the city’s most vulnerable people.”
Anyone who wishes to find out more about the National Fraud Initiative can visit the website.
Cllr Brown added: “At the same time Coventry City Council is committed to providing support to people who make genuine claims for benefits or council tax exemptions and discounts. We would remind people though it is important that they tell the Council if their circumstances change so that we can continue to ensure they receive the correct payments.”
To report concerns regarding Housing Benefit or joint Housing Benefit / Council Tax Support claims, please contact the DWP on Freephone 0800 854440.
To report concerns regarding Council Tax exemptions, discounts or Council Tax support only claims, please email CTFraud@coventry.gov.uk