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12 Jul 2016

N E Lincs reports on fraud

Two members of staff have been dismissed from North East Lincolnshire Council for misconduct.

No more details were released in the Anti-Fraud and Corruption report, which also revealed overpayments in benefits of more than £550,000.

Covering the last financial year, the report - the eighth of its kind - sets out the council's policy on dealing with those who try to steal money, both from inside and outside of the organisation.

With responsibility for the investigation of Housing Benefit fraud transferring to the Department for Work and Pensions from November 2015, the Council has taken the opportunity to shift its focus to other areas of potential fraud , including council tax discounts and the blue badge scheme.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, enforcement action has included:

  • Initial investigations into Council Tax discount fraud identifying 13 cases of fraud or error from 23 completed investigations, resulting in on-going liabilities being increased by a total of £3,888.19 (from November 2 2015 to March 9 2016). Investigations also increased past Council Tax liabilities by a total of £18,149.64 increasing the amount of Council Tax the Council is able to collect.
  • A Council Tax investigation established that the owner of a property had evaded Council Tax for the property he had lived in since it was purchased, by claiming he rented it to someone else who claimed Council Tax Support to pay the liability. Investigation established that the owner had never left the property and therefore, they received a bill for over £12,000 in unpaid council tax. In addition, the Council stopped paying Council Tax Support to his tenant.
  • Another Council Tax investigation into the circumstances surrounding an individual's claim that he lived on his own has resulted in him receiving a bill for more than £3,000 in Council Tax. The individual claimed that he had lived alone and as such was entitled to the 25 per cent reduction on their Council Tax bill. The investigation established that the individual had been living with his partner for more than 11 years but had never declared this to the Council.
  • Investigation of Housing Benefit fraud and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud resulting in the successful prosecution of 29 individuals (including 14 joint prosecutions with the DWP) up to November 2.
  • Additionally, a further 12 individuals were offered and accepted either an Administrative Penalty or a Simple Caution as an alternative to prosecution;
  • Uncovering £236,283.10 of overpaid benefit (including DWP benefits) from the 41 investigations referred to above;
  • Benefit fraud investigation also uncovering a further £320,133.23 of overpaid benefits (including benefits administered by DWP) where no prosecution or sanction was sought up to November 2. Action is taken in all cases to recover these losses, either through deductions from benefit, or through the Council's debt recovery strategy.
  • Initial investigations into Council Tax discount fraud identifying 13 cases of fraud or error from 23 completed investigations, resulting in liabilities being increased by a total of £3,888.19 (to March 9). Investigations have also increased past Council Tax liabilities by a total of £18,149.64.

The outcome of one case has led to a policy regarding Blue Badge enforcement being drafted by the Council.

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