More than £2 billion each year is spent on fraudulent claims, money which could be spent by local councils on genuine causes such as the infirm and elderly, according to government sources.
Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government Minister, has revealed that the government has launched a campaign to target the cheats spending money that could be used on a variety of legitimate sources, many of which are currently struggling for funding due to budget cuts. 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 tax payer over £2 billion."
Amongst the measures the government is considering implementing is the use of credit reference agencies for councils. Whilst many may baulk at the prospect it will mean that fraudulent claimants such as benefit cheats and tax evaders are targetted, whilst the honest majority have nothing to fear.
Baroness Margaret Eaton also threw her weight behind the move, saying on behalf of the Local Government Association, "Local authorities work hard to claim down on unscrupulous fraudsters. It is more important than ever that they track down those trying to steal money intended for the sick and elderly."
The extent of the losses mean that every household in Britain pays £95 towards dodgy claims, at a time when many are struggling for money themselves. According to the National Fraud Authority, the main areas targeted by fraudsters include pay, pensions, tenancy and recruitment. However, local councils also struggle with weeding out the sham claims for blue badges for the disabled, council tax and falsified grant applications.
Recent high-profile cases of fraud over both tenancy and housing benefit issues have been in the media, with stiff penalties issued, with both the government and local authorities determined to send a firm message to the fraudsters that enough is enough.
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