WORK is beginning to identify people fraudulently claiming council tax discount in Blackburn with Darwen.

Borough finance boss, Cllr Andy Kay, said the council tax team was in discussions with a firm to undertake a review of all single person discounts.

In a report to go before next week’s council forum meeting, Cllr Kay said: “The proposal is to work with a third party to cross reference recipients of single person discount with credit reference and personal data.

“This will highlight customers who have simply failed to notify the council of a change in circumstance, and identify fraudulent cases. The additional money from this initiative will be reported to members over the 2020/21 financial year.”

Cllr Kay added the council’s business rates team would be carrying out a separate piece of work to review small business rates relief cases.

He said: “Working with a third party, the team has identified 102 cases that have potentially fraudulently claimed the relief.

“As the team now has access to the national record of all recipients of Small Business Rate relief, this information can be compared to our own cases and those individuals with businesses out of the area can be pursued for backdated business rates.”

Earlier this week, it was revealed empty businesses in East Lancashire are costing taxpayers an average of £1.3 million in lost rates each year as part of a national relief scheme.

Over the past five years, almost £40m of potential business rates income has been lost due to empty premises in Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley, Rossendale, Pendle and Ribble Valley, according to information obtained by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit.

Figures show Blackburn with Darwen has missed out on the highest total, with an average of more than £2.7 million in rates relief being handed out from 2014/15 to 2018/19 - 4.72 per cent of potential rates income.

No rates have to be paid on empty business units for three months, such as when they close down or move.

The aim of the tax relief is to allow for property investment and give landlords time to find a new occupant.