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14 Feb 2017

Benefit fraudsters con more than £1.7m out of Halton Borough Council

Benefit fraudsters have conned Halton Borough Council out of more than £1.7m over five years.

Figures released by the local authority have shown that con artists have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds each year between 2011 and 2015.

The numbers were obtained by the Weekly News after a Freedom Of Information request was submitted to the council.

The figures cover the financial years from 2011-12 to 2015-16 and shows that a total of £1,725,520 was stolen.

For the first year £387,322 was reported stolen, with £340,643 and £383,432 in 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively. The figure dropped in 2014-15 to £359,111 and £255,012 in 2015-16.

Numbers for the current financial year were requested, but the Department For Work And Pensions took over responsibility from the council for investigating housing benefit fraud in August 2015.

The council also revealed in the request that more than 2,000 referrals were received for benefit fraud over the time period.

The number of reports dropped in each year from 593 in 2011-12 to 487 in 2012-13. A total of 474 referrals were received in 2013/14, with 430 in 2014-15 and 94 in 2015-16.

Cllr Mike Wharton, Halton Borough Council’s executive board member for resources said: “The council receives housing benefit fraud referrals from a variety of sources including the general public. Up until August 2015 the council investigated housing benefit fraud. However, since this date responsibility has passed to the Department For Work And Pensions and referrals are now passed direct to this Government department.

“The council continues to place great importance upon detecting housing benefit fraud, as indicated by the fraudulent overpayments it has uncovered over recent years, to ensure that only those who are correctly entitled to receive housing benefit do so and the public purse is not defrauded.”

Note this is only the fraud the council was aware of, so there will have been more.

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