Cheshire East Council has secured more than £800,000 to spend on local services after officers discovered that 93 ‘empty’ homes in the borough were in fact occupied.
The money is coming from the New Homes Bonus (NHB), a Government scheme to increase the supply of housing, which was introduced in 2011.
The main aim of the scheme was to provide an incentive for people to build new homes or renovate derelict ones.
For every new home, councils get six years’ worth of the national average amount of council tax for that band of property.
But the money is also payable when councils bring back into use an empty property or find that someone is living in a home previously registered as empty.
The Council drew up a list of properties that had been registered as empty for more than six months and then compared it with credit reference records to find whether any were being used as someone’s main home.
Officers from the benefit fraud team wrote to properties that were identified and visited them if there was no response. The 93 properties that were found to be occupied will attract at least £802,000 in additional NHB payments.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cabinet member for localism and enforcement, said: “This wasn’t particularly a ‘fraud investigation’ but it demonstrated how the team is capable of diversifying and applying its skills to other areas of work. They did an excellent job.”
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cabinet member for finance, said: “The additional funding will be spent on necessary services for the residents of the borough.”