Given that fraud can impact on a wide number of organisations and officials, it makes sense that there should be a wide approach taken to tackling fraud and fraudulent activity. Bringing different organisations together can be difficult and it will require a lot of administrative ground rules to be put in place but when you have different organisations bringing their own skills and experience together, you stand a much better chance of being able to spot where and when crime is being committed.
Clearly there is a need for good analysts to be utilised in ploughing through all of the information but it stands to reason that the more relevant information that you have at your disposal, the better it will be for people looking to tackle crime. This is something that has been recognised by Lincolnshire and the new anti-fraud partnership is looking to make a big difference on a number of situations, but particularly the level of fraud relating to council tax.
The Lincolnshire Counter Fraud Partnership has been set to impact on the number of people who are incorrectly claiming for discounts on council tax and on a wide range of fraud initiatives. The councils in Lincolnshire are now working together and the new partnership aims to create a lot of different benefits.
The Unit Will Bring Many Benefits when Tackling Fraud
There is a hope that the formation of the unit will create a larger level of focus and awareness about fraud, which will make more people aware of this style of crime. There is also a hope that when people are aware of teams working on fraud, there can be a deterrent. Even if the new fraud team didn’t find too many instances of fraud, if their work ensured that fewer people undertook fraud, there would be justification for new unit.
There is also hope that the councils working together will be able to share their resources and create a bigger source of intelligence. It may be that people are getting away with fraud at the moment due to gaps in the knowledge of the current fraud investigation teams but when these gaps are filled, there will be less space for criminals to fit through. Being able to share experience and good working practices will also be a benefit and it is hoped that the new department will have an impact on the general level of fraud that takes place across the UK.
The Cost of Fraud to Local Councils is Huge
There have been steps to reduce fraud, but it is believed that across the UK, local governments lose around £2bn every single year due to fraud. This is clearly a large sum of money and when you take on board the finance issues that local governments have, this is money that would be better used.
Some of the most common frauds that the local councils have experienced include incorrect use of Blue Badges, housing benefits, council tax discounts, contract awards and dishonest use of grants. The new Partnership has been formed from all of the 7 district councils and the county council. The first area of focus will be on targeting people who make false claims for council tax support and for single person discount.
People claiming for single person discount, when they are actually living with a partner is a very common form of benefit crime and if a council body is able to minimise the occurrence of this sort of crime, they will be heading in the right direction with respect to their finances.
Lucy Pledge is the Head of Corporate Audit and Risk Management and she said; “If you commit fraud against a council in Lincolnshire, there really is no place to hide. Although we are starting by looking at council tax, we will also be carrying out investigations into other types of fraud too. This includes procurement and contract fraud and housing tenancy fraud such as using false information to access housing or unlawful subletting. We want to send a strong message that if you try to cheat the system, we will be using all the resources at our disposal to protect the public purse.”
With an increased focus on targeting people that commit benefit fraud, it is likely that there will be an increased need for defence solicitors who have experience in dealing with benefit fraud. No matter what sort of charges you face, there is always a lot to be said for calling on experienced professional help.
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.