East Devon District Council

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Policy Council Tax and Housing Benefit Fraud and Compliance Strategy

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1. Key principles of this strategy

The Council has a duty to protect the public purse. This strategy sets out the framework for counter fraud and compliance measures in council tax and Housing Benefit to ensure that we are managing risks effectively.

The aim of this strategy is to prevent fraud and error by making it clear to customers that they have a legal responsibility to provide accurate and timely information about their circumstances. 

Fraud occurs because people are not truthful about their circumstances (false declaration) or because they fail to declare information about changes in their circumstances. Wrongly claimed council tax discounts, exemptions and reliefs directly increase local taxation for people in our district. The Council is committed to a proactive approach in preventing and reducing the level of Housing Benefit and Council Tax fraud and error in order to protect public funds.

In order to change behaviour to deter fraud and error there our approach to raising customer awareness must include education of this and there needs to be consequences, including prosecution and the imposition of penalties, for wrong doing and therefore we will seek to take appropriate action as outlined in this strategy. The Council will also help educate customers of their responsibilities to prevent fraud and error from occurring and/or recurring.

Fraud is a criminal offence for which someone can be prosecuted. Fraud is defined as “an intentional false representation, including failure to declare information or abuse of position that is carried out to make gain, cause loss or expose another to the risk of loss”. (Audit Commission Protecting the Public Purse). 

Fraud in the context of council tax is where people have made an application for a discount/exemption and are knowingly receiving a discount /reduction in their council tax to which they are not entitled, or have deliberately failed to report a change of circumstances and are therefore benefitting financially (paying less council tax) .

Housing Benefit fraud is where someone has provided false information to make a claim or has failed to notify a change in circumstances, for example not declaring all their savings, not being truthful about changes to household or financial circumstances and therefore getting more benefit than they’re entitled to receive.

We are aware of the risks within our system for fraud or other irregularity. In carrying out this duty, we may use legally obtained information provided for the purpose of the prevention and detection of fraud. We may also share the information with other bodies administering public funds solely for these purposes, subject to where a legal gateway exists.