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August 29 2014.

Following on from previous successful campaigns in 2011, Councils across East Sussex are joining forces to conduct a series of reviews of how many people may be wrongly claiming a discount on their council tax. This will help keep council tax as low as possible for all council tax payers.

Before the review starts, a two-week amnesty is planned to give people the chance to come forward without fear of penalty to declare they no longer live alone and have been wrongly claiming the Single Person Discount. The Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Detection of Fraud and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013 provide for a collecting authority to impose a penalty of £70 on a person if they fail to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances. The amnesty will run until Friday 12th September 2014.

The partnership is made up of Lewes District Council, Wealden District Council, Rother District Council, Hastings Borough Council, Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council.

The partnership review will examine who is claiming the Single Person Discount (SPD), which entitles claimants to a 25% reduction in their council tax, and alert those who are not entitled to it.

Similar reviews carried out across East Sussex in the last 3 years identified an average 7.3% reduction in the number of ineligible SPD claims. This led to an additional £2.1m in council tax payments and helped to protect services in these difficult financial conditions.

A series of reviews, which started in September 2013 and continue over the next 4 years, will examine around 83,000 taxpayers in East Sussex who claim the SPD. For an average Band D property, those claiming the SPD pay around £400 less a year.

The partnership is also encouraging residents who live alone and who may not be claiming the SPD to contact their local authority.

In a joint statement, the council partnership said: “This review is aimed at protecting the public purse by tackling an area of council tax payments that is vulnerable to fraudulent claims. These claims cost councils thousands of pounds a year and ultimately affect the services we can provide for our residents.

“The vast majority of SPD claimants are fully entitled to the 25% discount, however, there are some who are not. The amnesty will give those people the chance to come forward without sanction and we would encourage anyone who may be wrongly claiming to declare themselves straight away to avoid a potential fine.

“By working together, the council partnership in East Sussex can deliver joint efficiencies and deliver excellent savings.”
The council partnership has appointed Northgate Information Solutions Ltd to undertake the comprehensive review for all areas, helping to save money by removing the need for five individual reviews. It is best practice for Council’s to diligently review their discounts.

Northgate will be using state-of-the-art data matching technology to conduct the review, run in association with the National Fraud Initiative. Nationally, fraudulent SPD claims cost the public purse £90m a year.