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20 Oct 2015

People encouraged to report benefit thieves

A new campaign in Hertfordshire is asking people across the county: Do you know a cheat on your street?

The question is part of a high-profile crackdown on fraud which is estimated to cost local authorities in Hertfordshire an estimated £12m a year.

Tenancy and council tax fraud and abuse of the Blue Badge system for disabled drivers are three key targets of the drive.

Councillor Chris Hayward, Herts County Council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “All council services are funded by taxpayers, so when people commit fraud they are stealing from their whole community. Money goes to people who are not entitled to it and reduces the money available for services such as schools, highways, housing and health care. I’d call on people to do the right thing if they know a cheat on their street. It’s not fair that you pay your taxes while other people get away without paying them.”

Suspicions can be reporting confidentially online at www.hertsdirect.org/help/fraud or by calling 0300 123 4033.

North Herts District Council, Stevenage Borough Council and the county council have a shared anti-fraud team to detect and prevent fraud. It was set up in June and has already investigated 175 cases, resulting in eight formal interviews under caution and two arrests.

They’ve identified £425,000 of fraud, including people falsely claiming single person discount on their council tax, a tenant subletting their council property and a fraudulent right to buy application.

In some cases, investigators work with other agencies including the National Fraud Initiative, Herts police and the Home Office.

It is estimated that each year tenancy fraud costs £4.5 million across the county, council tax and single person discount fraud around £1.2 million and Blue Badge fraud a further £200,000.

Councillor Hayward added: “We are always looking for ways to get the best value for money and this innovative new partnership working is already cutting fraud and saving money from Hertfordshire’s public purse. If you know a cheat on your street, report them.”

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