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10 Nov 2014

Bristol reports benefits numbers

Bristol's benefits fraud team has saved nearly £1.5million of council taxpayers' money by identifying incorrect or fraudulent claims – in just six months.

The team investigated nearly 400 cases which led to 55 people being prosecuted for benefit fraud.

A further 23 received local authority cautions and seven were told to pay a fine.

The money has been saved despite staff cutbacks due to public spending cuts.

A report to the council's Audit Committee admits that the complexity of the benefits system and the high volume of claims means there is a risk of error and fraud.

It says: "The team has identified £1,048,052 of benefit being claimed incorrectly and it is estimated that a further £303,628 in fraudulent benefits claims have been stopped as a result of the work carried out."

The report shows the number of prosecutions have gradually increased during the past 15 years. In 2000/1, there were only 11 but during the past three years, there have been more than 80.

The team has also been able to make use of proceeds of crime legislation to claw back money which has already been paid out.

Under the Government's welfare reforms, a new benefits fraud team is being set up by the Department of Works and Pensions and nine council staff will move over in April.

Source

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