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On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection report on Hinckley and Bosworth borough council was published today and copies have been placed in the Library.
In 2003–04 Hinckley and Bosworth borough council administered some £10 million in housing benefits, about 35 per cent. of its gross revenue expenditure. BFI's comprehensive performance assessment in April 2004 found weaknesses in the council's counter-fraud activity. The inspection found that since then the situation has improved and the counter-fraud service is now performing to a reasonable standard. It is clear that the council is now committed to improving its counter-fraud service and this was shown by the prompt and positive reaction from members, senior managers and staff to BFI's findings and recommendations.
There is now a comprehensive set of policies and procedures to guide staff and investigators are experienced and generally well trained, although did not fully comply with legislation and guidance in some investigations.
Senior managers and members need to ensure that internal and external auditors support their efforts to ensure that the benefits system is safe and secure.
In September 2004, the council made a successful bid for performance standards funding to provide training and support officer and was keen to explore further funding for other counter-fraud initiatives.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and may ask the council for its proposals in response to the BFI's findings.