Harsher penalties on council tax fraud set for 2020 rollout

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are planning to crackdown on council tax fraud in 2020. PIcture: GE

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are planning to crackdown on council tax fraud in 2020. PIcture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tougher crackdowns on council tax fraud are being eyed for two Suffolk councils in the New Year.

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance said it was about protecting

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for finance said it was about protecting the public purse. Picture: PAUL NIXON - Credit: Archant

Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils are proposing to introduce a £70 fine for anyone who refuses to submit information required by law, or changes in their circumstances.

The cabinets of both councils are to meet in January where the new protocol will be agreed, and take effect from April next year.

According to the councils, it is expected to bring in up to £18,000 for the councils each year, although it is intended to act as a deterrent to council tax abuse rather than an income stream.

John Whitehead, Conservative cabinet member for finance at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: "We have a duty to protect public money.

Babergh District Council leader John Ward has backed the proposals. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Babergh District Council leader John Ward has backed the proposals. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant


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"By introducing penalties, we can clamp down on abuse and ensure we can fund necessary council services for our residents, while assisting those in genuine need of help."

Ipswich and East Suffolk councils already have a dedicated corporate fraud team which investigates council tax, tenancy, right to buy and blue badge fraud, in a bid to help protect the public purse.

Last year, the team halted £4.5million being lost through fraudulent claims.

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As well as the council tax penalty system, the two council cabinets are also set to approve a new council tax arrears project developed by Citizens Advice and the Local Government Association, which aims to identify issues of paying council tax earlier, helping homes come up with a solution.

That new protocol will be both fair and ethical, according to the councils.

Conservative leader at Babergh, John Ward, said: "We are committed to taking a proactive approach in preventing and reducing council tax fraud, as well as working closely with our enforcement agents and Citizens Advice so we can improve collection processes.

"Through early intervention to help residents struggling with council tax payments we can help prevent further charges, alleviate stress and reduce collection costs."

An online account can be set up on the councils' website, where details can be updated at any time, view bills and opt for paperless billing.

Mid Suffolk's opposition Green group has been contacted for comment.

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