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Council / Some council tax discounts and exemptions given incorrectly, meeting hears

THERE have been instances of some people in Shetland incorrectly receiving council tax discounts and exemptions, an auditor has said.

There have also been instances where there was no supporting evidence behind council tax discounts and exemptions.

The findings, from internal auditor Audit Glasgow, were presented to a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s audit committee on Tuesday.

The auditor suggested five recommendations after investigating controls in place covering council tax discounts and exemptions.

Auditors examined 60 cases of discounts/exemptions, and nine of these were found to be “not due”, and two were in the wrong category.

In 16 cases there was insufficient evidence to confirm the discount or exemption’s suitability.

There are a range of council tax discounts and exemptions available, including for single people and students, and there are nearly 6,000 awards live in Shetland, Tuesday’s meeting heard.

A report said there are approximately 11,500 dwellings in Shetland for council tax purposes.

The auditors said from the 60 cases selected, 51 of these should have been subject to review, or the exemption should have been time limited.

At the time of the audit only 11 of the 51 cases had been reviewed.

Internal auditor Duncan Black said there was a recommendation for the SIC to review its processes around council tax discounts and exemption.

In response, SIC management said it commenced an immediate review of the sample findings.

“Staff have already been notified to add notes accounts and the other recommendations made in this report will be implemented as soon as possible,” it added.

Auditors also noted that the information on the SIC’s website did not cover all types of council tax discounts and exemptions.

A report to councillors added that there were no documented council tax procedures for staff. “Instead, they refer to the Child Poverty Action Group council tax handbook (hard copy) which covers council tax legislation for the whole of the UK”.

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Black suggested that he expected a more local policy to be established by the SIC.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, audit committee chair councillor Allison Duncan said it was clear that SIC management is looking to address the issues.

But he said it was an important matter that needed “urgency”.

“It needs to have a fresh look at the present policy,” Duncan said.

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