Stephen Barclay is the Member of Parliament for North East Cambridgeshire and a member of the Public Accounts Committee. Follow Stephen on Twitter.
Budgets have taken a pummelling. Our local councils are trying hard to be innovative and do more with less resource. So you’d have thought that now, more than ever, they’d be looking to stem their losses from the fraudsters and thieves who try and make away with their resources. ‘Their’ resources – as if you needed reminding – being the money they’ve collected from us in tax.
The latest estimate by the National Fraud Authority is that over £2bn is lost each year to fraud at local authority level. The true figure is likely much higher but still, that’s a staggering sum, equal to over £120 per household. Local government needs to stop the bleeding. Quite simply, it’s criminal for money to be wasted at a time of cuts.
Many councils are looking into just this area and doing great work – checking to make sure that the person claiming a service are who they say they are and that any payments made are done so in a proper manner. Some of the early headlines have been astounding: Dudley Council has launched more than 170 housing fraud investigations in the last 12 months; Westminster Council found that in a raid on Edgware Road some 61 per cent of the properties they visited were illegally sublet, and the Chief Executive and his Deputy at Caerphilly Council have just been arrested, suspected of endemic fraud.