York Council fraud levels revealed

The Councils auditors are cracking down on Council Tax discounts with 11 cases currently under investigation following a “data matching exercise”.  These concern bogus “single person discount” claims.

A report reveals that the auditors had received 58 referrals for potential Council Tax/Non Domestic Rates fraud.

“There are currently 30 ongoing investigations into Council Tax and non domestic rates fraud.

The council has prosecuted two people for council tax fraud this year including the longest running single person discount fraud ever detected at the authority – 17 years.

In addition, 3 people have been cautioned for council tax fraud offences and 5 people have received warnings”.

The fraud team have completed 26 investigations into potential Council Tax Support fraud to date. The team has produced over £13k in savings thus far. There are currently 32 cases under investigation. To date one person has been cautioned and 10 people were issued formal warnings following investigations in this area.

Other areas of concern are

  • social care where there are 16 investigations in progress.
  • 14 cases of housing fraud – making false claims to secure accommodation – are underway.
  • The financial assistance scheme where 19 cases are being investigated
  • Parking and blue badge misuse. In 2017/18 the council prosecuted two people, cautioned 12 people and issued 30 warnings for disabled badge or parking permit misuse
  • Education – making false statements to gain entry to a school – 2 cases.

The report will be discussed at a meeting taking place on Wednesday

Audit report said York care home plan was “flawed”

An independent audit report said that Labour run York Council’s plans for multi-million pound super care homes were “flawed” and promised savings had been “double counted”. Audit Report

Labour’s Elderly Persons’ Homes (EPH) programme promises to replace existing care facilities in York and build new homes on the former Lowfield and Burnholme school sites.

However, the project has been beset with problems and is currently running years behind schedule.

Now the publication of a report by external auditors Mazars, from July last year, has for the first time revealed their criticism of the project.

The report was revealed last night to the council’s cross-party Audit and Governance Committee.

Mazars critical audit report July 2103

Mazars latest report

 600,000 of planned savings from EPHs were not delivered because of issues around building new units and assumptions were flawed.

The original estimated savings were too ambitious and members made changes to the project.

There was no effective challenge of the external expert’s assumptions.

In addition savings were double counted”.


£3.9 million Social Care budget problem forces major rethink in York

“the service was not responding quickly enough or effectively enough to the challenges it faced” – Auditors

The Council has now published an outline of how it intends to recover from the Social Care budget deficit discovered by Auditors.

The Auditors identified a budget pressure of £2.5 on this year’s budget together with outstanding actions needed to secure budgeted savings of £1.4 million.

Social care

In a separate report the Auditors they say

“Our view is that financial management and commissioning in the adult social care service needs to improve and this service has not responded quickly and effectively enough to the challenges that it faces.

 If the underlying financial pressures are not robustly addressed and actions to secure significant future base budget reductions are not effective, there is a risk that the Council will not be in a position to deliver the best possible value for money in adult social care services.

Of critical importance to the delivery of sustained improvement is a review of existing contracts and a new commissioning approach that secures the required services at an affordable price”.

The crisis had led to the demotion of the Cabinet member, who had responsibility for the department, earlier in the year with several senior staff following her out of the door last month.

A summary of the action that the Council intends to take can be read here

10 substantial issues, raised by the Auditors, are addressed. They include:

  • Producing a clear and unambiguous budget for the current year which eliminates overspends
  • Improved accountability for senior officials
  • More delegation of responsibility
  • Improvements in the budget build process for next and subsequent years
  • A clear savings plan
  • Improved management information systems and IT
Council Leader with Cllr Simpson Laing (right) a few weeks before she was sacked from her Social care post

Council Leader with Cllr Simpson Laing (right) a few weeks before she was sacked from her Social care post

Challenged on the problems at the last Council meeting, the Leader declined to say why he had not taken action last year to address the emerging issues.

Council officials had earlier declined to say why one of the savings projects – the opening of a new “super care village” at Lowfields – was running 3 years behind schedule.