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27 Apr 2015

Reading reports on benefits fraud & blue badge fraud

Benefit claimants have overclaimed more than £277,000 over the past year in Reading, prompting 17 prosecutions.

One benefit fraud case involved a massive £32,000 and Reading Borough Council has succeeded in retrieving the cash through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

From April 2014 to March 2015, the total housing benefit and council tax support overpaid was £214,604 while other state benefit overpayments totalled just under £62,000.

Paul Harrington, chief auditor at the council, was giving an end of year report to the audit and governance committee on Tuesday, April 21.

He said the council team was still working on a “couple of huge cases” alongside the Department of Work and Pensions.

As well as 17 prosecutions, administrative penalties were applied in 11 cases to get cash back without going to court.

Borough staff received 23 reports of housing and tenancy fraud and investigations have led to six council properties being returned to the housing stock and two returned to social landlords.

It is estimated these tenancy investigations have saved the council £108,000 by not having to spend on temporary accommodation for six tenants during the year.

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Among the most common reports from the public of potential fraud are for Blue Badge users.

During the last year the council has conducted two proactive drives in Reading town centre to check on the legitimate use of Blue Badges entitling parking in disabled parking bays. As a result, 14 cases have been investigated.

Mr Harrington said: “We do get appreciation from members of the public for these investigations.”

The council is currently involved in a “complex investigation into payments made in respect of an adult care provider” and has successfully prosecuted another claimant for fraud and false accounting over personal budget payments.

There have been two linked investigations into potential fraud and perjury involving lawful development certificates where applicants have submitted “fictitious supporting statements in order to secure exemption from the need to apply for planning permission”.

Mr Harrington’s report said: “We are working closely with legal on possible criminal charges for false statements.”

And he concluded in his report: “We have been, and will continue, to work alongside officers from the electoral registration service for the prevention and detection of electoral fraud.”

But commenters aren't impressed with Reading Council's standard of service - see source.

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