This news is conveniently timed given that the coalition are cracking down on the bulging budget for housing benefit. How ironic then that it is being delivered by the doomed Audit Commission, which is being axed by Eric Pickles within months.
According to the commission, councils detected £135m worth of fraud last year involving 119,000 individual cases. The bulk – almost £100m – involved housing benefit fraud. Another £15m of council tax fraud was found along with people fraudulently claiming personal budgets for social care. (This is where people are given money directly to buy the care they need, rather than social services directly providing it.)
Housing tenancy fraud has emerged as one of the biggest issues, the commission said, with almost 1,600 social housing properties recovered that have been illegally sublet. That is only a fraction of the estimated 50,000 houses and flats that may be illegally occupied.
The commission also said there had been a big rise in the number of people claiming a single person’s discount on the council tax. Typically one in 20 such claims are false, according to councils.
This annual survey will end next year when the Audit Commission is abolished.