Callcredit welcomes Housing Minister's new proposals to reduce social housing fraud and notes the increasing value that Local Authorities attach to accessing accurate data

The increasing value that Local Authorities ascribe to accessing accurate data in their fight against public sector fraud was highlighted in the Department for Communities and Local Government Consultation announced by the Minister for Housing, Grant Shapps MP. The Consultation forms part of the Minister's new housing strategy and is focused on reducing social housing fraud, estimated by the National Fraud Authority to cost the UK £900million a year and to prevent between 50,000 and 160,000 tenants from occupying social housing.

Proposals contained in the Consultation that are aimed at strengthening landlord's powers to tackle tenancy fraud include compelling organisations to comply with local authorities' requests for data. These might include, at minimum, banks, building societies and utility companies which may hold data that would be important in detecting fraud.

According to Callcredit's Director of Public Sector, Andrew Davis, this further highlights the strategic value of data as a weapon in combating social housing fraud. He said: "Legally mandating Local Authority staff so they can access greater amounts of data can only lead to higher detection rates. However, enacting this legislation may take some time and in the interim, genuine tenants will remain unable to access the homes to which they are entitled, and in addition the financial burden imposed on Local Authorities will increase. We believe that Local Authorities, with the right financial mechanisms in place, can use existing data in a more effective way, such as by data matching, and this will help them to use existing resources, such as dedicated staff and tenancy audits more effectively. There is a great deal that can be done to improve detection rates whilst the consultation is ongoing."