CSA to target 'high-living' husbands

The Child Support Agency is to be given new powers to inquire into the lifestyle of men suspected of passing assets to second wives in order to avoid maintenance payments to children of first marriages, Andrew Mitchell, the social security minister, confirmed yesterday.

The CSA will be able to ignore tax returns and certified accounts to make a judgement on standards of living and men may have to explain how they can afford expensive cars, luxury homes and foreign holidays.

"It's the cavalry coming over the hill for a small but important minority of people," Mr Mitchell told The Independent. He referred to evidence highlighted by the CSA of a number of cases where apparently rich men had transferred all or most of their assets into the name of a new wife or mistress.

The measures were foreshadowed in last year's white paper on CSA reform, in response to a storm of criticism of its rigid formula for calculating maintenance payments.

The package, which has now had "flesh put on the bones", will be tested in a pilot scheme in Hastings, East Sussex, in April and should go nationwide at the end of the year.

Men accused of high living while declaring low assets and income will have the right of appeal to an independent tribunal. But groups campaigning against the CSA condemned the new powers as a "snoopers' charter". Paul Doxey of the Network Against the CSA said: "The CSA is giving a great deal of scope to vindictive ex-wives."

Opponents fear that women will be encouraged to spy on their former husbands and collect evidence of high spending. But the Commons social security select committee is expected to publish a report on Thursday backing the plan, which will describe "asset-rich, income-poor" fathers as one of the biggest problems facing lone mothers.

David Shaw, Conservative MP for Dover and a member of the Commons committee, said: "The bottom line is that there are still a lot of men who don't want to pay a penny towards their first family and are becoming increasingly sophisticated at beating the system by passing their money to their companies or to new wives."

In one case, Terri West, a mother of two, campaigned for two years against CSA decisions to reduce her former husband's contributions to zero.

She said she told the CSA that Chris Tsangarides, a record producer, lived in a pounds 300,000 house, had a Porsche, two BMWs and employed a gardener and a cleaner.

The CSA was only allowed to rule on the basis of audited accounts of his company which showed he earned pounds 14,340 a year.

The change to the CSA's remit will be the first time a government agency has been given such powers and is likely to fuel the continuing debate over its activities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power