Scale of fraud against coun­cil from within and with­out re­vealed

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

BIRM­ING­HAM city coun­cil re­cov­ered dozens of homes and blocked more than 150 hous­ing applications due to false claims last year.

The au­thor­ity also in­ves­ti­gated more than 100 in­ter­nal fraud cases re­lat­ing to staff, most of which con­cerned over­pay­ments. The coun­cil’s fraud re­port 2017/18 has re­vealed the scale of the prob­lem it is fac­ing fronts. The key find­ings were:

912 cases of po­ten­tial hous­ing fraud iden­ti­fied, re­sult­ing in 87 prop­er­ties clawed back by the coun­cil. There were also 152 hous­ing ap­pli­cants can­celled and four Right to Buy claims blocked.

846 cases in re­la­tion to false Coun­cil Tax Sup­port claims re­sult­ing in £1.1m worth of ad­just­ments to be made. In ad­di­tion, £826,748 worth of hous­ing ben­e­fit over­pay­ments were iden­ti­fied dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

115 re­fer­rals to the coun­cil’s cor­po­rate fraud team (CTF) con­cern­ing staff. The cases were worth £700,000 in to­tal. Most of them were con­cerned with over­pay­ments and pro­cure­ment re­lated fraud.

Cllr Paul Til­s­ley (Lib Dem, Shel­don), said he was ‘as­tounded’ to hear that the an­nual value of fraud across all sec­tors of the UK econ­omy was val­ued at £193 bil­lion, nearly a quar­ter of the gov­ern­ment’s bud­get.

He said: “We have to stamp this out. It is our money. We could be pro­vid­ing much bet­ter ser­vices if there wasn’t the amount of fraud tak­ing place.”

Only six peo­ple were pros­e­cuted for hous­ing ap­pli­ca­tion fraud and one other was cau­tioned, de­spite the high num­ber of cases and the fact £8 mil­lion worth of prop­erty was re­cov­ered.

The coun­cil stated that while crim­i­nal cases acted as de­ter­rents they were time con­sum­ing and re­quired a lot of ev­i­dence.

The re­port added: “There are obvi- ous so­cial ben­e­fits in en­sur­ing that only those with the great­est need are al­lo­cated so­cial hous­ing, but there is also a real fi­nan­cial sav­ing from pre­vent­ing and/or stop­ping so­cial hous­ing fraud, par­tic­u­larly in re­spect of pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, and los­ing valu­able hous­ing stock through fraud­u­lent Right to Buy applications. We will con­tinue to work with the direc­torate to fur­ther de­velop work in this area.”

In re­la­tion to staff-re­lated fraud the most com­mon case type was pay­roll which ac­counted for 37 out of 115 re­fer­rals. This in­cluded fail­ures to record ab­sences, re­duced hours worked, ac­cu­mu­lated long term sick­ness ab­sence, ma­ter­nity leave and con­tract ter­mi­na­tion.

Last year there were 19 salary over­pay­ments of more than £3,000 worth in ex­cess of £118,000 in to­tal.

The re­port said: “It is dis­ap­point­ing that over­pay­ments are still oc­cur­ring on such a reg­u­lar ba­sis, par­tic­u­larly when they arise as a re­sult of man­agers fail­ing to in­put a ter­mi­na­tion date when an em­ployee leaves, as this means pay­ments con­tin­u­ing af­ter the em­ployee has left and re­quires ad­di­tional re­source in rais­ing a debt to re­cover the over­pay­ment.”

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