By Marcus Leach

A new survey published today (Thursday) has revealed that councils have been conned out of more than £7m by criminals using information put on their own websites under transparency drives.

According to the Audit Commission officials have been tricked into making payments - intended for building firms and other contractors - into false bank accounts.

The survey says England's councils have succeeded in detecting £185 million worth of fraud, an improvement of 37 per cent on last year's figure of £135 million.

This is equivalent to a year's funding for around 700 libraries or the wages of up to 11,000 care workers. Also, councils recovered nearly 1,800 homes from tenancy fraudsters. To build those homes from new would have cost the public purse over £265 million.

"Our report shows fraudsters will exploit any system weaknesses, from an individual's care budget to a multi-million pound building contract," Chairman of the Audit Commission Michael O'Higgins said.

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