Agenda item

Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit Report


Emma Cathcart (Head of Service, Counter-Fraud and Enforcement Unit - CFEU) (EC) outlined that the report provided an update  on the various  work streams being undertaken, including business grants and energy rebate payments, both of which are coming to an end.  These significant projects have been resource intensive but the team were now able to refocus and return to more business as usual such as the fraud risk strategy.  Work continues in relation to the National Fraud Initiative matches,  a review of anomalies relating to single person council tax discount was almost complete.  The report also provided details relation to the checks and verification activity undertaken with Cheltenham Borough Homes including a review of the  housing waiting list.


Members thanked EC and her team for the excellent work they do in recovering large sums of money, or preventing it from being paid out in the first place, which was extremely valuable to the council.


In response to a question from a Member, EC confirmed that:

-       in view of the current cost of living crisis, she was not aware of the specifics but was sure that the Council was actively assisting the staff.  She said that from a fraud point of view, any risks would be considered and this would include internal fraud risk.


The Executive Director for Finance, Assets and Regeneration added that this was a very emotive subject which had to be dealt with sensitively.  The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) as fully aware that there were issues in the workforce and that many people were struggling. Service managers had been briefed regarding flexible working, and ELT proposed a pay offer of £1925 to all staff as the fairest way – currently in consultation with the unions. ELT is also looking to pay an additional 40p an hour to lift the lowest pay band to the new national living wage of £10.90, and at increasing mileage payment from 45p to 50-60p a mile, without incurring tax implications.  A number of staff well-being surveys are being undertaken to see what practical measures the council can take to help.


In response to further Member questions, EC confirmed that:

-       to create a counter-fraud culture, the CFEU has for several years been working hard on making fraud risk relatable to staff, helping them to understand how it affects their areas, encouraging them to take any concerns and worries to their line manager/ELT/CFEU team.  Most people in the council want to do good for the public but there is always someone who might take advantage or exploit a loophole.  CFEU works hard to make itself part of the council, feeding into different projects and working alongside officers.  Fraud risk is in everything, and hopefully the change in culture makes everybody aware of this;

-       home working in remote locations is not considered to increase the risk of fraud or the ability to detect it – someone intent on committing fraud will always  find a way.  It is all a question of interaction and balance, understanding teams and with whom the CFEU team need to work.  Systems can be interrogated to see if someone is logging on and working when they say they are, for example,  and the key issue is to raise awareness among staff and ensure they know what to look out for and who to go to if they are suspicious;

-       educating staff is the best way to minimise the potential risk of inadvertently sharing data with other people.  Work is underway with ICT on an acceptable user policy for staff to sign up to, which details responsibilities.  The housing team is very amenable to CFEU recommendations that people be downgraded or removed from the housing list.  They review the recommendations and feedback results.  The CFEU will be working to review the activities it undertakes with social housing providers, looking at how best to interact in getting properties back.  Tenancy fraud is a significant issue affecting the public purse.


The Chair confirmed that no vote was required on this item.


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