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South Buckinghamshire District Council (Benefit Fraud Inspectorate)

Work and Pensions written statement – made on 5th April 2005.

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Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection report on South Buckinghamshire district council was published today and copies have been placed in the Library.

In 2003–04, South Buckinghamshire district council administered some £9 million in housing benefits, about 38 per cent. of its gross revenue expenditure. BFI found that the council's counter-fraud work and audit arrangements were not at standard.

The council had contracted out counter-fraud work in 1997 but little meaningful counter-fraud work was done under these arrangements. Following a best value review of the revenues and benefits service, direct responsibility for managing counter-fraud was returned to the council on 1 September 2004.

BFI found that existing strategic and policy plans contained too little detail to be fully effective and that some were still in draft. In many cases no fraud file was set up to hold details of the investigation and where a fraud file did exist it contained insufficient information. The management of the council's counter-fraud resources and quality of the investigative work was poor. No fraud sanctions had been applied in over 10 years. The performance development team is now working with the council to develop a long-term strategy to improve counter-fraud work.

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.