29 Jun 2013

Watford & Three Rivers report £1m of local benefit fraud

Benefit fraudsters have pocketed more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money in Watford and Three Rivers in the last year, says The Watford Observer.

Figures compiled for Watford Borough Council’s audit committee showed that £705,833 in Watford and £298,602 in Three Rivers was paid out in fraudulent claims over the financial year 2012-13.

That's the ones they know about.

Officers revealed at the same time a total of 639 benefit fraud investigations across the district and borough has yielded only 24 prosecutions. However 67 people had received administrative penalties or formal cautions in that period.

Garry Turner, Fraud manager at Watford Borough Council, told the committee yesterday that almost a quarter of suspicious cases were not investigated. There were 556 referrals and tip offs regarding fraudulent claims but 136 of those were rejected.

When asked by councillors where Watford Borough Council’s figures are compared to other councils, Mr Turner said: "There isn’t a local bench mark that we can take part in, but we could perhaps compare with the London authorities."

A breakdown of the figures showed that the most lucrative area for fraudulent claims was housing benefit, which cost Watford and Three Rivers £546, 067 in overpayments.

The report said £133,407 was falsely claimed in Council Tax benefit and £324,959 was defrauded from other benefits such as Jobseekers’ Allowance.

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