Pickles tells councils how to save over £2bn
11 May 2011
Councils could save £2.1bn a year if they tackled fraud in housing tenancy, procurement, pay, pensions and recruitment, council tax, grants, and blue badge schemes, the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said.
Pickles has pointed to a 10-point 'blueprint' created by the National Fraud Authority which he said councils could find useful rather than being accused of making unnecessary cuts to frontline services in their attempts to make savings imposed on them by Whitehall.
Recommendations include using credit rating agencies to cut down on tax evasion and benefit fraud, carrying out more background checks on staff, and using specialist fraud investigative teams.
Pickles said: "It's time to get tough and take on the fraud cons. At a time when we need to cut the national deficit and government waste, cleaning up fraud could save the taxpayer over £2bn in recovered cash currently being fraudulently stolen or lost to tax cheats.
"Councils should carry out better credit checks through credit rating agencies before giving over discounts or benefits. They should properly vet staff in key positions and put stricter controls on who can use the council credit card."
The Local Government Association has said that councils are already saving millions by tackling fraud but credit agency Experian said that more could be done.
I'm heartened by today's announcement of a new initiative to tackle the vast sums of money lost to fraud in the UK. However the DWP estimates that error accounts for double the losses caused by fraud. With every penny lost to fraud and error being lost to front line services, one thing is clear: battling this widespread waste has to be a top priority.
The vast figures involved are less surprising when you consider that 25% of civil service respondents to a recent survey said that 'promptness' rather than 'accuracy' was the most important factor when allocating public funds. Insightful understanding of an individual is only possible if their records are cross-checked and integrated, ensuring inconsistent claims are stopped before they pollute the wider government network.
Graham Kemp, head of public sector - SAS UK