Scottish Borders Council laptops thought to be stolen found at health board office

Scottish Borders Council's headquarters in Newtown.
Scottish Borders Council's headquarters in Newtown.

Investigations by counter-fraud watchdogs have found 53 cases of erroneous or fraudulent council tax reductions in the Borders over the last year.

The national fraud initiative, a series of probes run by the Cabinet Office and Audit Scotland, also revealed that Scottish Borders Council has overpaid housing benefits by £20,536.

The findings will be presented to councillors at tomorrow’s meeting of the council’s audit and scrutiny committee, and the local authority’s chief audit and risk officer, Jill Stacey, will present a report on counter-fraud measures employed by the council last financial year.

A council spokesperson said: “The council matches data with other public bodies to find cases of council tax discount being claimed incorrectly.

“In 2017-18, there were 129 unexplained cases identified as requiring further investigation.

“Of these, there were 53 cases where council tax discount was being claimed fraudulently or in error and, as a result, the council made a saving of £37,523 up to March 31.

“The council will continue to actively tackle fraud, theft or corruption across all its services.”

The report also identifies investigations carried out by the council which have resulted in a recuperation of losses due to fraud or error.

One investigation showed that laptops thought to have been stolen from the council had in fact been sent to NHS Borders by mistake.

Other investigations led to the recovery of £650 due to an erroneous educational maintenance allowance claim, reclaiming homeless accommodation after discovering a tenant wasn’t actually homeless and the seizure of a falsified blue badge.