Headlines: September 17th, 2004

The arrangements local councils have in place to counter benefit fraud are to be examined by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate as part of its latest work programme. The Inspectorate is also to make detailed recommendations on improving measures to beat fraud in some specified local authorities.The councils have been selected following recent Comprehensive Performance Assessment reports and include Gravesham Borough, South Buckinghamshire District and South Cambridge District. Inspections will also be carried out at Mid-Suffolk District Council and Flintshire County Council, as they take longer than the national average to process benefit claims.

The Housing Benefits Minister, Chris Pond, said the latest phase of inspections would concentrate on councils that have weaknesses in their counter-fraud activity. “The public are fed up with cheats and we want to work with local councils to cut down on benefit fraud,” he said.

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate will also inspect other authorities where benefits administration as a whole has been judge to be poor or fair under the CPA. These include Castle Point Borough, Mansfield District Council and South Northamptonshire Council. There will also be a full inspection of Bromsgrove District Council to help improve performance, after an agreement with a Government Monitoring Board, and at Newport City Council whose benefits serviceĀ  performance has been identified as requiring work under the Wales Programme for Improvement.

The inspectorate is an independent unit within the Department for Work and Pensions and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the standard of benefits administration and counter-fraud activity within the department and in local authorities.