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29 Sep 2017

East Devon DC checks council tax discounts

Checks to make sure East Devon householders who currently claim a 25 per cent council tax discount for living alone are still entitled to it are being carried out this month.

As part of East Devon District Council’s measures to prevent fraud and protect the public purse, checks are beginning this month to ensure that those claiming the discount are entitled to it.

Nationally, council tax discounts are the second highest area of fraud and error, behind welfare benefits. It is estimated that nationally £19.6 million is lost each year in incorrectly applied discounts.

£7.7 million is awarded annually to residents in East Devon receiving a single person council tax discount. This equates to an average reduction of £375 per year. Based on research, up to 5% of these discounts may be incorrectly claimed and in East Devon this could equate to up to £385,000 each year. When the review was last carried out, discounts of more than £182,000 were identified as being incorrectly claimed.

The council will be carrying out checks using sophisticated data-matching technology to make sure that around 21,000 households who currently receive a discount in the district are still eligible.

The council will be working with Datatank, a firm of data solutions specialists, to carry out the review by cross-referencing with other sources of information about households such as the electoral-roll registers and financial sector information.

Cllr Ian Thomas, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: "I would like to stress that anyone genuinely claiming a reduction should not be concerned. However, if you are found to be deliberately misleading the council, you could face a penalty of £70, as well as having to repay the discount. Council taxpayers who claim the discount improperly place an unnecessary burden on the very real needs of some residents. We must treat such misinformation very seriously. Council taxpayers have a legal duty to advise the council of any changes to their single occupancy circumstances. This review will help us make sure our approach to the single person discount is robust, fair and cost effective."

The review will begin this month and be completed by December. As part of the process, Datatank will be contacting a sample of households by letter and/or telephone on behalf of the council.

The review is being jointly funded by the council, Devon County Council, Devon & Cornwall Police and Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority who each receive a portion of the council tax.

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