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6 Apr 2013

Stoke deservedly gets more cash to fight housing fraud

Unsurprisingly - see here and here - Stoke on Trent has got a share of the government's fund to fight social housing fraud alongside Bristol.

A high profile crackdown on housing fraud in Stoke-on-Trent has been given a boost after the city council scooped more than £170,000 in national funding.

The £171,510 cash injection is part of a multi-million pound investment into combating housing fraud, ensuring that properties go to the people who really need them.

The government funding supports efforts to identify fraudsters who live elsewhere but rent out their council or social housing – costing taxpayers up to £900 million per year nationally.

At the same time, the culprits are making thousands of pounds in profit from their 'tenants'.

The funding allocation is partly as a result of the excellent work conducted by the city council's Corporate Fraud Team which has received national recognition from the Audit Commission and the National Fraud Authority.

The plaudit follows the recovery of 116 properties, which have been returned to council stock, for use by those in genuine need since April 2011.

The funding will boost the successful Spot the Cheater campaign which has seen an 18 per cent increase in fraud referrals from the public since May 2012.

The grant follows on from a recent government backed Private Members' Bill which makes sub-letting a council-owned or social home a criminal offence.

The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 is due to come into force this summer and will see perpetrators facing a fine and prison sentence of up to two years.

Councils will also be able to recover any money made through sub-letting a social home, investing the funds back into frontline services.

Councillor Paul Shotton said:
We take a zero-tolerance approach to dealing with fraudsters in Stoke-on-Trent and will dedicate this additional funding to weeding out the culprits and ensuring that our council owned and social houses are available for the people who need them the most.

Offenders are guilty of stealing from the public purse and taking vital resources from the most vulnerable members of the community. This is despicable behaviour at the best of times but, when we are facing economic challenges it is worse than ever. We will strive to fulfil our Mandate for Change pledge to make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live by taking firm action against anyone committing housing, or any other kind, of fraud.

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