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Number of fraud cases rises but total value drops

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The total value of financial fraud detected in local authorities has fallen over the previous year even though the number of individual cases has increased, according to a new report by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy.

The survey, which received responses from 144 local authorities, found that the total value of fraud activity was £34m less in 2017-18 than in 2016-17, while the number of cases increased from 75,000 to 80,000.

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of Cipfa, said: “Fraud is a serious issue for local authorities. We must collaborate to combat it and adopt a cross country strategic approach if we are to make serious inroads in the fight against fraud.”

The survey found that cases involving council tax fraud comprised the largest amount of casework, yet only represented 8.7% of the detected value. Housing fraud cases were the lowest detected but highest valued - making up just 5.7% of all cases but 71.4% of the total value.

According to the report, right-to-buy fraud is “evidently” the highest type of housing fraud, especially in London as housing prices have become increasingly expensive.

The fastest growing area was business rates fraud which grew from a total value of £4.3m in 2016-17 to £10.4m in 2017-18.

According to Cipfa’s estimate, fraud costs local authorities between £2.1bn to £7bn every year.

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