How can local government minimise fraud using automation?
Single Person Discount ‘failure to notify of a change’ and fraud costs councils and the taxpayer around £92m a year. That’s according to The National Fraud Authority, who based their research on earlier work by the Audit Commission. It is clear then, that councils could potentially increase revenues by regularly reviewing Single Person Discount claims.
Using Govtech’s automation software, the good news for councils is that this can be done quickly and without huge expense. One such council who have addressed this issue successfully is Kirklees Council, who have been a Govtech client for five years.
With a population of over 423,000, Kirklees had over 66,000 active Single Person Discounts being applied and wanted to make sure that records were correct, to minimise fraud and maximise income. As the 11th largest Authority in England, this was a substantial project to undertake.
Using Govtech’s webCAPTURE service Kirklees were able to carry out a bulk review of their existing Single Person Discount caseload. The Authority contacted all in receipt of the discount over a four-month period, and directed them online to either cancel or confirm their eligibility. All webCAPTURE responses were then automatically processed in the business Revenues system, with no manual intervention.
Steve Bird, Head of Welfare and Exchequer Service,
“The new digital by design process has made it easier for customers to notify us of changes at a time convenient to them, and it has the added benefits of saving the revenues team time and the cost of processing the SPDs. It’s also boosted the council’s finances by creating a surplus on the collection fund.”
Of the approximate 55,000 residents contacted (excluding council tax reduction cases), nearly 47,000 forms were completed online, of which over 1,200 were voluntarily cancelled with an estimated value to the council of £300k. Of the remaining nonresponders, Govtech’s automated service cancelled the discount adding a further £200k to the collectible debt. Starting the process in April 2017, by the time the exercise had been
completed 4 months later, the council could point to an increase in net debit of £0.5m.
A successful campaign
By automating the review process, Kirklees were able to reduce the amount of staff resource required to administer a highly labour-intensive process. In fact, the campaign was so successful that in the 2018 Annual Bills, Kirklees asked all Single Person Discount claimants to cancel or confirm their discount online, saving on any postage costs. Within weeks, over 16,000 had responded, with the formal review process starting shortly afterward.