Council tax crackdown nets £100,000

A SENIOR COUNCILLOR said he was “staggered” being told 10 per cent of council tax discount claims in the Cherwell district are questionable or fraudulent.

Some 264 people were found to be wrongly claiming the single person discount, which offers 25 per cent off bills.

They have now been ordered to pay the full amount, which should raise an extra £100,000 this year for council and police services.

And a further 1,500 people are being asked to justify their discounts.

It follows an investigation by Cherwell District Council and support services firm Capita.

Council records have been credit-checked through agency Experian and householders asked to explain discrepancies.

The council’s executive member for finance, Ken Atack, said: “This is a staggering amount of money we have been able to recover.

There might be further cases of fraud out there and we will continue investigating until we uncover them all.

“While I accept that some people will not have intended to cheat the system, there were certainly plenty more who did.”

All 17,138 single person discounts were checked after an amnesty offer by the council last November, asking people to own up, yielded just 42 responses in two months.

A council spokesman said: “A further 1,500 claimants could face further investigation if they do not provide evidence that their claims are valid.”

And he warned householders could face court action as a last resort.

County council cabinet member for finance and police authority member Kieron Mallon said: “It is great to see the district council being vigilant and chasing up fraudulent claims.”

Comments (7)

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7:39am Fri 10 Aug 12

Lord Palmerstone says...

Ken, don't be staggered. This is just froth on the potty compared to Council Tax Benefit fraud and at least the payers are real working people who are grotesquely over-taxed, not welfare scroungers.
Ken, don't be staggered. This is just froth on the potty compared to Council Tax Benefit fraud and at least the payers are real working people who are grotesquely over-taxed, not welfare scroungers. Lord Palmerstone
  • Score: 0

8:41am Fri 10 Aug 12

EMBOX1 says...

Don't also be surprised that people try to avoid this awful tax - when 34p in every £1 goes to pay council staff pensions, you know there is a serious problem.

This is the reason council tax has increased dramatically over the last 10 years.
Don't also be surprised that people try to avoid this awful tax - when 34p in every £1 goes to pay council staff pensions, you know there is a serious problem. This is the reason council tax has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. EMBOX1
  • Score: 0

9:14am Fri 10 Aug 12

yotday says...

I wouldn't be surprised if a reasonable number of them are people like me (valid claimants) who received the letter a week after the date printed at the top, in the middle of holiday season, with an intimidating notice that said "if we don't get this back inside two weeks from the above date you'll have your rebate cut, no second chances". I might be on this list because of delays in the system (hint: if you're dealing with TNT Mail / Royal Mail, there is the distinct chance that it's not actually possible to comply). If it takes a week to send a letter from A to B, it might take a week to send it back.

I'm sure many recipients of this letter were vulnerable and living alone and will have found the unsympathetic language upsetting. This was badly mis-managed. From my conversations with Capita (I had to phone up to get clarification on the letter), my councillor and the council employee, doesn't sound like OCC was particularly in control of the process.

Props to my councillor and the council employee who wrote back and apologised, but it still happened. I hope anyone legitimately claiming the rebate who fell foul of this isn't treated so badly in further investigations.

Wonder what the correct number will be once they filter out any mistakes.
I wouldn't be surprised if a reasonable number of them are people like me (valid claimants) who received the letter a week after the date printed at the top, in the middle of holiday season, with an intimidating notice that said "if we don't get this back inside two weeks from the above date you'll have your rebate cut, no second chances". I might be on this list because of delays in the system (hint: if you're dealing with TNT Mail / Royal Mail, there is the distinct chance that it's not actually possible to comply). If it takes a week to send a letter from A to B, it might take a week to send it back. I'm sure many recipients of this letter were vulnerable and living alone and will have found the unsympathetic language upsetting. This was badly mis-managed. From my conversations with Capita (I had to phone up to get clarification on the letter), my councillor and the council employee, doesn't sound like OCC was particularly in control of the process. Props to my councillor and the council employee who wrote back and apologised, but it still happened. I hope anyone legitimately claiming the rebate who fell foul of this isn't treated so badly in further investigations. Wonder what the correct number will be once they filter out any mistakes. yotday
  • Score: 1

9:38am Fri 10 Aug 12

steve1955 says...

Now lets look into the fiddling of expenses of councillors employees the sick pay fiddles the mileage fiddles and the hours fiddles in the council betting it adds up to more than 100k and lastly why does cherwell need 50 councillors for this area GB has 650 MPS for 62 million people cut waste in all public areas then tell us how much is saved
Now lets look into the fiddling of expenses of councillors employees the sick pay fiddles the mileage fiddles and the hours fiddles in the council betting it adds up to more than 100k and lastly why does cherwell need 50 councillors for this area GB has 650 MPS for 62 million people cut waste in all public areas then tell us how much is saved steve1955
  • Score: 1

10:48am Fri 10 Aug 12

Christine Melsom says...

As 'Lord Palmerstone' rightly says, this is only the froth on the coffee. Most councils are wringing their hands at the moment, because the Government is to cut less than 10% off their contribution to council tax benefit. Since this announcement, surprise, surprise, the councils are beginning to address the waste and the lethargy within them. When the Government was refunding almost 100% of CTB, there was little incentive for councils to bother. Now they must collect, and it is up to us, the employers to make sure that they do. AT NO COST TO US, the council tax payer. At the same time, the Government must play fair and give equal grants per head of population across the country
As 'Lord Palmerstone' rightly says, this is only the froth on the coffee. Most councils are wringing their hands at the moment, because the Government is to cut less than 10% off their contribution to council tax benefit. Since this announcement, surprise, surprise, the councils are beginning to address the waste and the lethargy within them. When the Government was refunding almost 100% of CTB, there was little incentive for councils to bother. Now they must collect, and it is up to us, the employers to make sure that they do. AT NO COST TO US, the council tax payer. At the same time, the Government must play fair and give equal grants per head of population across the country Christine Melsom
  • Score: -7

1:02pm Fri 10 Aug 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

Were council records really "credit checked" against Experian records, or were they simply cross-referenced against Experian records?

It would seem quite inappropriate for any local authority to review an individuals credit record unless they happened to offer credit services.

On the other hand, I do believe that council should report slow/non-payers of council tax to Experian. This would help protect the vulnerable from being offered credit when they are clearly having a difficult time meeting their personal financial responsibilities.
Were council records really "credit checked" against Experian records, or were they simply cross-referenced against Experian records? It would seem quite inappropriate for any local authority to review an individuals credit record unless they happened to offer credit services. On the other hand, I do believe that council should report slow/non-payers of council tax to Experian. This would help protect the vulnerable from being offered credit when they are clearly having a difficult time meeting their personal financial responsibilities. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

3:25am Sat 11 Aug 12

Whopper w/o Pickle Cornmarket St says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Were council records really "credit checked" against Experian records, or were they simply cross-referenced against Experian records?

It would seem quite inappropriate for any local authority to review an individuals credit record unless they happened to offer credit services.

On the other hand, I do believe that council should report slow/non-payers of council tax to Experian. This would help protect the vulnerable from being offered credit when they are clearly having a difficult time meeting their personal financial responsibilities.
My God, The Stasi have nothing on our council, and I suggest That North Korea needs to visit our city to get some ideas.
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Were council records really "credit checked" against Experian records, or were they simply cross-referenced against Experian records? It would seem quite inappropriate for any local authority to review an individuals credit record unless they happened to offer credit services. On the other hand, I do believe that council should report slow/non-payers of council tax to Experian. This would help protect the vulnerable from being offered credit when they are clearly having a difficult time meeting their personal financial responsibilities.[/p][/quote]My God, The Stasi have nothing on our council, and I suggest That North Korea needs to visit our city to get some ideas. Whopper w/o Pickle Cornmarket St
  • Score: -27

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