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Auditors 'disappointed' over grant errors

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Auditors have found “disappointing” levels of error and inaccuracy affecting millions of pounds worth of councils’ claims for central government grants.

The Audit Commission said housing and council tax benefit generated the greatest concern, accounting for 255 out of 360 of its queries.

Other queries related to claims for national non-domestic rates, teachers’ pensions, pooling of housing capital receipts and various transport and regeneration grants.

These schemes in total transfer £50.5bn of public money from central to local government.

When auditors have queries the claim is either amended by local agreement or referred to the Whitehall department concerned.

Controller of audit Marcine Waterman said: “Although only a small percentage of the billions of pounds involved, the amendments are still worth millions of pounds.

“We have made sure that claims and returns are completed properly and have highlighted where the amounts claimed, or reported, were based on inaccurate information.”

Ms Waterman said it was “particularly disappointing” that housing and council tax benefit subsidy claims had become a “persistent problem”, with half of all councils concerned having had claims referred to Whitehall every year during that period.

Full findings are in the commission’s report Local Government Claims and Returns: Auditor’s Certification Work for 2012-13.

The Department for Communities & Local Government and HM Treasury are developing transitional arrangements to account for these grants once the commission is abolished next March.

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