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Huntingdonshire District Council tackle social housing fraud

Exemplar Award winner- Improvement and Efficiency Award Runner-up 2013: Huntingdonshire District Council

The National Fraud Authority estimates that social housing tenancy fraud costs the public purse £1.75 billion per annum. This project outlines how a partnership approach across Cambridgeshire worked to tackle the problem.

The issue

The project, delivered through a partnership across Cambridgeshire, aimed to detect, investigate, prevent and, where appropriate, prosecute, and recover properties for social housing tenancy fraud. The stock of social housing included in the proposal is in excess of 25,000 properties held by some local authorities and a number of registered Housing providers.

Huntingdonshire District Council is the Lead Authority that has successfully bid for funding from the Local Government Association and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Solution

The partnership currently includes the following local authorities:

• Huntingdonshire District Council

• Fenland District Council

• Peterborough City Council

• South Cambridgeshire District Council

• Cambridge City Council

All partners are committed to creating a cross boundary Housing Fraud Partnership, using shared data from various sources to prevent, detect, investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute social housing tenancy fraud.

The project involved cross boundary datasharing, creating a hosted data-warehouse located at Huntingdonshire District Council. The Local Land and Property Gazetteer was key to this project as it provided a standard property address with which to link records, as it is embedded in many internal applications.

The monthly extract of data from 24 datasets, listed below, includes around 270,000 addresses.

• Council Tax

• Sundry Debtors

• Environmental Health

• Benefits

• Housing Register

• Resident Permits

• Season ticket Parking Permits

• RSL Tenants

• Licensing

• Electoral Register

• Payroll

Council Tax, Benefits, Environmental Health, Housing and Electoral Register suite of reports are 100% synchronised to the LLPG, enabling LLPG addresses to be applied in the data warehouse structure.

Outcomes

The project is still ongoing; however, several key benefits have already been realised.

Financial benefits:

• decreasing the level of fraud, using current estimates of loss of £18k per property (Audit Commission/Cabinet Office /DCLG estimates), should deliver ongoing savings of around £864k and £1.72M to the public purse

• an additional benefit to HDC is the identification of fraud in Benefits and Council Tax Discounts which could add a further £250k in savings

• 79 Fraud files have been raised

• 17 cases have identified nearly £7,000 of overpayments

• six of the above cases have identified over £10,500 per annum future savings

• four cases have been referred to the DWP

• more than 20 cases are still being actively investigated by Fraud Officers

• 11 properties have been removed from the Long Term Council Tax Empty list • nearly £1,300 of fines and penalties have been charged/applied

• over £1,550 of outstanding debt have been identified that can now be recovered

• enabled a property to be recovered for breaching tenancy agreement which on latest Audit Commission estimates means an annual future saving of £18,000 to the Council.

Organisational benefits:

• improve levels of data quality across multiple data sets by linking to the LLPG and its UPRN

• conversely, the extensive use of the LLPG enables users to identify any anomalies in the LLPG

• engaging with one software supplier with the objective of developing a web service link to LLPG/NLPG addresses and UPRN.

Authority view

“The LLPG at Huntingdonshire is embedded into many internal applications. This enables the addressing information from these systems to be manipulated into a consistent LLPG format for uploading to the Fraud data warehouse. The monthly LLPG address matching underpins the Authority’s objectives to achieve a broad range of financial savings for the Authority. The Fraud work is ongoing and new financial benefits are realised each month. This project has received further national recognition by winning the Innovation category with their ‘Fighting Fraud Awards’ entry sponsored by the Cabinet Office and National Fraud Authority.”

—David Lloyd, Local Land & Property Gazetteer Manager

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