23 Jun 2014

Cambridge detects more benefit fraud

The amount of cash saved for taxpayers by council investigators tackling fraud in Cambridge has doubled.

City council staff saved £600,069 during 2013/14, compared to £299,625 the year before.

The amount of actual benefit cash identified as having been paid out to fraudsters was down, from £144,723 to £129,422.

But there was a big increase in housing fraud and a larger number of benefit claims were terminated following investigation, saving £185,672 which would otherwise have been paid out.

Cllr George Owers, the executive councillor for finance and resources, said the fraud prevention team had an extra staff member in it last year.

Cllr Owers said: “This implies to me that it’s more the case that we are getting better at and have more people working on detecting fraud, rather than fraud being on the increase. There are no indications that benefit fraud itself is increasing in Cambridge, just detection.”

The £185,672 of benefits which would otherwise have been paid out related to 45 claims which terminated, compared to 23 the year before, when £95,461 was saved in this way.

Also last year, 10 council tenants handed back the keys to their property following fraud investigations, saving £180,000, compared to a single property the year before.

The amount recouped due to identification of resident error rose from £14,599 to £72,633, while £20,268 was saved last year after investigations resulted in council tax exemptions and discounts being removed.

Cllr Owers added: “It is disgraceful when people try to cheat the system, and people rightly want to see us taking the enforcement action needed to make sure that frauds get caught out.

“However, I think that it is right to bear in mind that, in fact, most benefit claimants are genuine.

“We mainly deal at the city council with housing benefit claimants, and the more important story here is that more and more people – increasingly, people who work hard and who pay their tax – are being driven into a position where, due to Cambridge’s sky-rocketing housing costs and the cost of living crisis in general, they have no choice but to claim housing benefit.

“A small number of people who don’t play by the rules should not overshadow these wider issues. And of course there is the wider point that unclaimed benefits in fact far outweigh fraudulent claims, and tax evasion dwarfs both.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cllr Owers doesnt know how much fraud there is - nobody does, we can only guess. He doesnt want to know.

The cost of living crisis could mean more people are tempted to make fraudulent claims? They are probably going to get away with it.