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'Independent' body needed for council funding

Evidence that one in three councils make more by charging for some services has come under fire from accountants working in the public sector.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) suggested the Audit Commission has called on the Government to set up an "independent grants commission" to help ease problems with local authority funding.

Charging plays 'significant role' in funding services

The chairman of a regulatory body overseeing the public purse has distanced himself from evidence showing some councils make more money by charging for additional services than council tax.

Audit Commission chairman Jeremy Newman said there was no "one-size-fits-all" formula for how councils decide which services they charge for.

A rise in the money generated by charging showed "the significant role" it was now playing in funding public services.

There is no 'one-size-fits-all' formula for how councils set their local charging policies. We are providing information and tools for councils, and those who hold them to account, to help understand the important role that charging plays in councils' strategic financial management.

The fact that some bodies derive more income from charging than council tax is neither good nor bad, but highlights the significant role charging plays in funding public services, and reminds councillors and electors to carefully scrutinise the approaches councils are taking.

– Account Commission chairman Jeremy Newman

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'1 in 3' councils make more from charges than tax

Council tax
One in three councils generate more revenue by Credit: PA

One in three councils made more money over the last year through parking charges and school meals than they did through council tax, a new study has shown.

Councils made £10.2 billion in 2011/12 by charging for rubbish, funerals and other domestic services, the Audit Commission found.

The commission, which looks after the public purse, found 32% of districts were collecting more money through additional services than they were through council tax.

One in five (21%) of London boroughs were among those councils which had brought in more revenue by charging for extras than council tax.

Read more: Motorists 'fined £30m' monthly

Local taxpayers are being 'ripped off' by fraud

In response to the report into council fraud, a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said:

Local taxpayers are being ripped off by £2 billion a year because councils are failing to tackle fraud.

Councils need to do far more to raise their game to tackle these crimes.

To help councils, Government is changing the law to allow them to get tough on social housing cheats.

Councils battle fake housing and tax fraud

The report into fraud revealed fake housing and council tax benefit claims continue to account for the largest proportion of all council fraud losses - £119 million in the latest survey - however local government counter-fraud teams are spotting new risks.

These include a case uncovered by a council where housing tenants lied about their identities to increase the discount available to them under the Government's Right to Buy housing scheme.

Grants available to individuals, community groups and voluntary organisations have also been targeted by fraudsters making false applications, and evidence is also emerging of fraudulent misuse of business rate relief by companies.

The commission reported that schools are falling victim to internal and external frauds in recent years, including those involving expenses and the altering of cheques, as well as procurement and finance leases.

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Local governments targeted by fraud deception

A new report has revealed details of the scale in which local governments have been targeted by fraud.

There is no doubt our findings show councils increasingly out-smarting the fraudsters.

But while they are busy tackling established frauds, new ones keep emerging. Every threat exposed or investigated safeguards money which is needed more than ever.

– Jeremy Newman, Chairman of the Audit Commission

A spokesman for the Audit Commission added the report, called Protecting the Public Purse 2012 - Fighting Fraud Against Local Government, found the amount of fraud detected by councils was a comparatively small amount.

He said: "There has been an increase in the amount of fraud detected by councils, but the fraud detected is the tip of the iceberg."

Fraud battle 'tip of the iceberg' claims report

Councils battling fraud are detecting "only the tip of the iceberg" as local government is targeted by new forms of deception, a report published today warns.

Research by the Audit Commission has found that while councils were more efficiently tackling long-established frauds, new scams were now emerging in areas such as business rates, Right to Buy housing schemes and at schools.

Between April 2011 and April 2012 councils in England uncovered a total of more than 124,000 cases of fraud adding up to £179 million.

That compares to the 121,000 cases, totalling £185 million, detected the previous year.

Elderly care will force cuts to services, councils warn

Funding for care homes is forcing councils to make cuts in other places Credit: ITV News

In a letter to all three main political parties, the leaders of every major council in England and Wales have urged that "real change" in elderly care is needed to avoid local government having to cut funding to things like parks and libraries.

The letter argues that failure to reform care for the elderly will result in local councils having to divert funding to "plug the gap".

The letter was drafted by chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell.

"For too long we have toyed with adult social care reform and failure to act now may be the failure that tips the system over”

“We cannot afford any further delays. We are clear that any such loss of momentum on exactly how care is funded is dangerous.”

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