Warning over fraud at Northants County Council in coming years

The county council's new headquarters at One Angel Square in Northampton
The county council's new headquarters at One Angel Square in Northampton

Fraud at Northamptonshire County Council is ‘increasingly probable’ in the coming years, according to the authority’s internal auditor.

A report put together by the council’s internal auditor LGSS has warned that the financially-stricken authority may be targeted by fraudsters over the next few years as it makes moves to transfers services to two unitary authorities.

Chief internal auditor Duncan Wilkinson said ‘no issue was identified through 2017-18 work of any material or significant fraud successfully targeting NCC’ but that NCC could not take its eye off the ball.

He said: “There is a need to maintain vigilance and ensure that controls/governance continues to operate effectively during the period of extensive change over the next few years.

“It is considered increasingly probably that NCC will be targeted by fraud during this period.”

In 2017-18 there were 52 fraud referrals at NCC.

Eight of these were corporate; 25 involved blue badge parking; seven were in social care; nine were categorised under theft; two were in schools and one was classified in the ‘other category’.

Eight of the fraud referrals are still to be dealt with and the remaining 44 have been closed.

In social care £83,914.63 has been repaid to NCC and in another case £71,987.28 is being chased.

One member of staff received a written warning about theft and one case was ‘referred to a third party to consider’.

The report does not say whether the police have been involved in any of the cases.

LGSS is the shared services provider that NCC runs in partnership with Milton Keynes Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

The body, which was formed in 2010, was criticised by government inspector Max Caller and  experienced troubleshooter Sarah Homer has now been brought in to run the organisation at a rate of £1,220 per day.

Northamptonshire County Council will become defunct in the coming years after former secretary of state for local government Savid Javid ordered the authority and the other seven borough and district councils in the county to come up with a proposal for two new all encompassing unitary councils.

The unitaries will take over all services currently provided by Northamptonshire’s two-tier system.

A consultation allowing county residents and businesses to have their say on the proposals begins on Wednesday (June 13) and will be available on each of the council’s websites.