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.”