People in North Herts who fail to pay their council tax, sub-let council houses and fraudulently use disabled parking badges had better watch out as a new council anti-fraud team proves it is redressing the drain on council resources.

The Shared Anti-Fraud Service – set up in April 2015 and comprising six local authorities, including Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts District Council – has seen a crack team of counter-fraud specialists prevent an estimated £250,000 being lost to fraud in Stevenage and North Herts in the past year, compared with an estimated £200,000 being lost to fraud.

The team of counter-fraud professionals, which works with the police, government departments and tax officials, received 134 reports of fraud in North Herts in its first year, and 91 in Stevenage – the vast majority involving fraudulent claims of council tax discounts and council tenants sub-letting homes.

Nick Jennings, who is heading up the force for the councils, said it also targets procurement fraud and fraud by members of the council’s own staff.

Mr Jennings said: “Obviously the vast majority of people who use council services do so legitimately.

“But if people are caught committing fraud they won’t just lose their job – they could also find themselves in prison and having to pay back their benefits.

“We will be able to collect the kind of detailed evidence that is needed to make a case stand up in court.”

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “It’s part of us working together with other councils to increase the capacity of services and share the costs.

“This is a win-win policy. We want to make sure people who get use services are those that should have them, not people that are trying to fiddle the system.”