23 Sep 2014

Wigan council reports benefit fraud totals

Almost 300 households receiving benefits were referred to Wigan Council as potentially being fraudulent claimants last year.

Local authority officers recovered £578,000 for the public purse as a result of prosecutions for false housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support claims.

Of the 285 referrals last year, 186 were proven as fraud with 20 referred for prosecution. All of the 20 that ended up in court ended in prosecution with the other cases dealt with by a caution or financial penalty.

The previous year a total of 45 cases were referred for prosecution with a total of £690,000 recovered during that 12 months. Wigan Council said the drop in the number of referred cases was due to a policy change.

A spokesman said: “Each case of proven fraud is assessed against a number of factors to determine whether it is appropriate to prosecute. As an alternative to prosecution, offenders may be offered a caution or a penalty. For small value frauds, we will seek recovery of the money. So, while a lower number of cases were referred for prosecution in 2013/14 than the previous year, the value of fraud prosecuted was proportionally higher. This reflects our policy to target the biggest frauds. We will continue to investigate housing benefit fraud between now and February, when the government will take over full responsibility for this area.”

The Department for Work and Pensions will assume jurisdiction for housing benefit fraud investigations early next year. The two council officers who have recovered more than £1.2m over the last two years will be given new roles within the local authority.


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