Rochdale council is still owed £5.1m in housing benefits wrongly paid to residents.
The figure represents the total amount of money outstanding – including from previous years – yet to be recouped by the authority.
Over payments made to people in receipt of the benefit over the last financial year came to £1.9m, while some £330,000 was written off over the same period.
The council says while the overall amount owing is the lowest in Greater Manchester, it will use all the tools at its disposal to recover the money.
Neil Thornton, the council’s director of resources, said: “We take all reasonable efforts to recover any amount due.
“In certain circumstances this can include deductions directly from future Housing Benefit payments, from DWP benefits or from earnings.”
He added overpayments were only written off by the council ‘after all available recovery options have been exhausted or if the person has absconded and is unable to be found’.
The rules on who is eligible for housing benefit are set by government and the payments are administered by local authorities.
Overpayments can happen for a variety of reasons, from residents making mistakes or failing to notify a change in circumstances to fraudulent activity.
Nearly £1.8 million in overpaid housing benefits was recovered by the council during the 2018/19 financial year.
Rochdale council is currently facing a budget gap of more than £7m, making it vital to keep the amount of money it loses to fraud and error to an absolute minimum.
Mr Thornton said the council has plans in place to ensure this is the case.
He said: “We have a range of preventative measures – these include verifying information from residents with supporting evidence and using a
range of data matching sources from DWP, HMRC, landlords and employers,” he said.
“ Claims and changes are not processed until appropriate evidence is provided to support the information provided.
“Changes in circumstances are processed quickly, particularly if these will result in less Housing Benefit being due. In some cases, payment is suspended whilst necessary information is obtained.”
Greater Manchester’s local authorities were owed nearly £100m at the end of 2018/19 according to the latest government figures.
Manchester had the highest amount outstanding – some £27.4m – followed by Wigan and Salford (both £12.8m).
Rochdale (£5.1m), Bury (£5.5m) and Stockport (£5.8m) were owed the least.
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