CIPFA research shows two thirds think fraud is a major risk for local authorities


Research published today by CIPFA finds that almost two thirds (64%) of local government professionals believe fraud is a major risk for local authorities. This finding comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which councils are at an increased risk of suffering fraud losses due to the high value of emergency grants they have been given to disburse. 

A survey of local government professionals was conducted by Perpetuity Research on behalf of CIPFA with findings collated in a report, Tackling Fraud in the Public Sector. The survey found 69% believed poor organisational controls leave local authorities vulnerable to fraudsters. Half (49%) said staff were not adequately trained to identify fraudulent activity. 

The importance of prevention emerged as a key theme. A large majority (87%) of respondents reported that preventative strategies would be the key means of fraud in local government in the future. Strong governance and long-term planning were also identified as essential to eliminating vulnerabilities within councils. 

Rob Whiteman CBE, CIPFA CEO said: 

“Fraud, bribery and corruption are constantly evolving threats that undermine financial resilience and put even greater pressure on public services at a time of crisis. The increased strain on resources and governance as a result of COVID-19, and the prevalence of technology-enabled frauds, compound these threats even further. 

“We cannot prevent all financial crime. What we can do is put in place measures to ensure that authorities have an awareness of the risks they face in a constantly changing world and are equipped to mitigate these.

“Our focus in the future must shift to long-term planning and preventative strategies to ensure that fraudsters cannot threaten the resources councils need to provide for the most vulnerable.” 

Professor Martin Gill, Director of Perpetuity Research said: 

“In these stressful times the police have put us on notice that fraudsters are active, exploring the new opportunities that are being created for them by the current epidemic. Never has it been a more important time to understand both the risks and the need to adapt responses accordingly.  

“This research provides important and timely insights from senior officers in local government across the country on the nature and level of fraud risks and identifies some of the key barriers to improving the response. These findings must be heeded.”

The survey was undertaken to improve awareness and generate new insights into how fraud is perceived and can be combatted across local government in the future.


Notes to Editors

  • The research included an online survey targeting senior officers working in local authorities across the UK and three roundtable discussions – two in London, one in Chester.
  • 303 local government professionals responded to the survey. The majority were senior managers or heads of department, and most worked in finance, human resources, IT, internal audit and counter fraud.

View the full report here.

For further information please contact the CIPFA press office on T: 020 7543 5787 or E:

CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA shows the way in public finance globally, standing up for sound public financial management and good governance around the world as the leading commentator on managing and accounting for public money. 

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