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12 May 2014

Stoke-on-Trent recovers 75 properties in a year

The Stoke Sentinel is reporting that almost 1,000 benefit cheats were shopped by their neighbours in just 12 months. (h/t Dave)

Between April 2013 and March 2014, a total of 1,457 people were reported to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, accused of fraud. Of that figure, 963 were shopped for allegedly cheating on their benefits, while 494 were unrelated to benefit fraud.

Now the city council is re-launching its successful Stop The Cheater campaign, which resulted in so many calls to name offenders.

The initiative has been so successful that its methods, publicity and logo have been bought by local authorities in other parts of the country. The city council is not allowed to make a profit from other authorities, so can only charge for manpower and costs.

This year, Stoke-on-Trent officials are targeting non-benefit fraud, which includes tenants sub-letting their properties and people lending blue badge disabled stickers to healthy friends and relatives. Councillor Andy Platt said: "I think it is great we have got these posh London boroughs coming up north to get advice on how to deal with this sort of thing."

Councillor Terry Crowe said
This city is the leading light in this and we should be proud of it. I welcome this, especially the crackdown on blue badge fraud. When 20 per cent of blue badges are being used illegally, that makes me frightened to a certain extent. People who are disabled get tarred with the same brush as scroungers and it is because of people who defraud the blue badge scheme.
Nationally, the annual loss to local authorities from non-benefit fraud is £2.1 billion, while £350 million is lost to benefit fraud.

This year the responsibility for investigating benefit fraud will pass from the city council to a new Single Fraud Investigation Service, set up by the Department for Work and Pensions to investigate benefit fraud across the nation.

That leaves the local authority free to focus on recovering council tax debt, along with tenancy and blue badge fraud.

It is estimated that as many as 20% of the 13,000 blue badges issued across Stoke-on-Trent are abused – a total of 2,600.

However, the figures for sanctions against fraudsters are tiny compared to the number of tip-offs received.

Overall, in 2013/14, 76 people were prosecuted for fraud, 27 received administrative penalties and 68 were formally cautioned.

The council also recovered 75 properties, eight blue badges and identified £1.2m of overpayments.

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