A DISTRICT council is employing the services of a private company to carry out checks on people it suspects are wrongly claiming a council tax discount.

Ryedale District Council is launching a new exercise to clamp down on people who are falsely claiming single occupier discounts. It has hired an unnamed company which it says specialises in cross-referencing data on households with credit reference checks.

It says any cases where a mismatch is shown between household data and credit information will be reviewed.

Households with one adult are eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their council tax bill.

Ryedale District Council said the external company will be paid based on each single discount that is cancelled, the equivalent of a no win, no fee basis and that the cost will be split across all the major council tax preceptors.

The local authority said there is a possibility some fraud will be unintentional and each case will be considered individually.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “New legislation has also come in, which will allow council tax cheats to be prosecuted in the same way that benefit cheats are through the court system and made to pay back the money that they owe.

“Ryedale District Council has not increased its council tax precept in the last five years and in order to ensure best value for residents the authority is making continual efforts to clamp down on people who attempt take advantage of the system and, in turn, are taking advantage of genuine council tax payers.”

Alan McCarten, senior revenues officer for Ryedale District Council, said “This is an opportunity for our residents to contact us if they think they should not be entitled to single person discount before we undertake the review exercise.

“We will write to residents over the next few weeks who are claiming single person discount, to determine whether they do, in fact, have an entitlement to the discount.”

In May this year, Citizens Advice said people struggling with council tax payments had rocketed to become the most common type of debt problem it dealt with, overtaking credit card and loan debt problems.

About 27,000 people with council tax arrears problems approached the charity nationally in the first three months of 2014, a 17 per cent upswing on the same period last year.

Any residents in Ryedale who think they may not be entitled to single person discount should contact Revenues Services on 01653-600666 ext: 650, or e-mail ctax@ryedale.gov.uk