Edinburgh residents fraudulently try to swindle city out of £1.2 million
Finance chiefs have been blasted after the city council detected almost £1.2 million of customer fraud in the space of a year – with only £355,000 being recovered for the public purse.
The authority’s annual fraud detection and prevention report revealed that the activity was discovered in a host of services including benefits, council tax reduction, disabled blue badges and the controversial garden waste scheme.
The garden waste service, which was rolled out last year at an annual £25 charge, has seen 203 households investigated for fraudulent activity.
The £5,076 of fraud detected in the brown bin scheme was caught before the service rolled out – so no costs were needed to be recovered.
Finance and resources convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, said: “We do not tolerate any kind of fraud and always take action against those who are knowingly claiming what they are not entitled to.
“In cases where applicants have made genuine errors – such as incorrectly applying for an exemption they aren’t entitled to – we will work with them to resolve this issue.”
The report shows that £423,382 of fraud was detected in council tax discounts and exemptions, £252,000 for non-residency and illegal sublets of council homes and £372,996 for non-domestic rates.
Conservative finance spokesperson, Cllr Graham Hutchison, said: “Given the council’s increasingly constrained budget position, as local authorities continue to be strangled by the SNP government at Holyrood, the level of customer fraud is most disappointing. With finance officers running out of places to look for further measures to plug the inevitable gaps in the revenue budget, tightening up on the recovery rate from customer fraud is essential and the current poor recovery rate must be addressed urgently.
“Given the shambles around the roll out of the garden tax and the subsequent amateurish management of the brown bin collection service, it is no surprise that the council has fallen victim to fraud in this area.”
Green finance spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “Any fraud needs to be dealt with firmly and consistently, whether it is financial such as business rates fraud or non-financial like using false information to get a child into a full-up non-catchment school. Most of the fraud is from council tax or non-domestic rates so there is obviously work to do, not just on detection but, more importantly on recovery, all of which is needed for services.
“Brown bin fraud is a very small amount of the overall total but it is also so unnecessary given all the other administrative and collection problems with the charging scheme. It would have been better to have kept a free-to-use garden waste scheme back when it was decided 18 months ago.”