£645K in bogus benefit claims

NEWS: News.
NEWS: News.

Fraudsters have swindled taxpayers in Doncaster out of almost £654,000 by making bogus housing and council tax benefit claims over the last year.

Figures revealed in an internal Doncaster Council audit services annual fraud report, show 1,052 fraud cases of this nature were referred to Doncaster Council in 2012/13 - amounting to a total of £653,972.

Of the cases reported, nine concerned benefit frauds of more than £10,000.

Some 30 people were prosecuted, 56 formal cautions were issued and 18 administrative penalties handed out.

The news comes as it was revealed the council recently updated its anti-fraud and corruption procedures and created an action plan to crackdown on fraud in the borough.

Coun Allan Jones, deputy chairman of the council’s audit committee, urged anyone who knows of people committing benefits fraud to contact the council.

He said: “If you know about people who are committing this sort of fraud, it is their civic duty to let us know.

“The council is doing its utmost to ensure these people are charged under the legal processes that exist, and my understanding is we do a good job of that. It is the taxpayer who has to food the bill for this sort of fraud.”

Of the cases of benefit fraud, 54 per cent was made up of undeclared income, 24 per cent undeclared person in the property, 15 per cent non-occupancy of the property, 3 per cent undeclared occupational pension, 3 per cent undeclared capital or property and 1 per cent ‘other’.

Although the figures remain high they have decreased since 2011/12 when there were 104 formal cautions over benefits fraud compared to 56 in 2012-13.

The decrease may be due to a new approach in which the Department for Work and Pensions will now only consider taking on an investigation where the potential joint overpayment of benefit is in excess of £2,000

Despite the move, the report states: “The overall attitude will be on of zero tolerance and the control regime within the bounds of reasonableness, will promote this and will also aim to reduce losses due to fraud, bribery and corruption to an absolute minimum.

“Excluding housing benefits, the level of fraud committed against the council remains very low for the size and complexity of the organisation.”

In the document, discussed at an audit committee meeting on Thursday, blue badge fraud in 2011-12 showed 27 residents had been prosecuted for using a dead relative’s badge to take advantage of disabled parking.

The document also revealed missing cash and fraudulent payments to employees of a sports complex were currently being prosecuted although no further details were contained within the report.

n Residents who have concerns about fraudulent activity are urged to contact the council’s internal audit fraud hotline on 01302 862940.