DOZENS of dead people were identified as still being on a council house waiting list, with nearly 100 more holding Blue Badges, during a fraud investigation.

East Lothian Council employed a counter-fraud officer last year as part of a new shared-service agreement with neighbouring Midlothian Council.

A report on their first 12 months of work has revealed that errors which will save the council more than £665,000 have been uncovered.

They include identifying people on council lists who have died and those receiving single-person discounts on their council tax who are no longer living alone.

The report was due to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee today but it had to be cancelled after not enough elected members attended to make it quorate.

It revealed that the new officer had worked with the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a data-matching service which brings together information from council and other public-sector bodies, comparing them to flag up any possible fraud cases.

It matches data including dates of birth, National Insurance numbers and addresses, along with benefits details and Blue Badge holders.

'The case is strong'

Of the core 83 reports received from the data-matching work, 77 have been fully investigated, with 2,151 matches.

The report said: “From these core matches, the following areas of error were identified: 50 deceased individuals were removed from the housing waiting list with NFI estimated savings of £214,150; 96 deceased individuals had Blue Badges cancelled with NFI estimated savings of £62,400; five duplicate invoice payments that had not already been returned were identified with a recovery of £48,999 that has now been received back by the council.”

The counter-fraud officer also introduced a process for reviewing households receiving single-person discounts which might no longer qualify.

It revealed that households were written to and asked to confirm their status, with a final reminder sent to those that did not respond and the discount removed if they ignored it.

The report said that more than 2,000 households were identified by the NFI and more than half had been reviewed, resulting in 171 "amendments" to single-person discounts, leading to an additional £114,364 in council tax being collected.

It said: “Within the last year, the counter-fraud officer has investigated a total of 1,165 cases and provided estimated savings of £665,764, and the council has or is actively recovering £203,253 of income/wrongly paid expenditure.

"The case for continuing to support a counter-fraud officer is strong and enhances the capability to detect and recover underpaid income and overpaid expenditure.”