Crackdown by Northumberland fraud team saves £1.5m

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Northumberland County Council’s newly-established corporate fraud team has detected £1.5million of fraud in its first nine months.

The team carried out more than 500 investigations resulting in one person being sent to prison for three years and ten suspended sentences for fraud offenders.

The team identified housing benefit overpayments of £659,614 and has so far recovered £116,864, as well as recovering council tax benefit overpayments of £96,567. The team’s work has also led to the withdrawal of 24 Right to Buy applications that would have allowed a discount to the property purchase price, saving £799,395 and adding value by retaining the properties as part of the council’s housing stock.

Northumberland County Council deputy leader, Coun Dave Ledger, said: “The Corporate Fraud Team has made an excellent start in tackling fraud. We intend that the team is fully self-funding given the pressure on council budgets and in its first year, it has more than proved its worth. By investigating and reporting fraud we can ensure that public money is spent where it should be spent, on services for the community.”

The team will also be proactively investigating tenancy fraud and is cracking down on Blue Badge misuse – filming potential offenders and working to prevent abuse of the scheme.

The Corporate Fraud Team was established on April 1 last year, combining the previous work of the Audit Service and the Anti-Fraud Consultant with the Revenues and Benefits Fraud Investigation Team. The council is committed to providing an effective Anti-Fraud Service which is supported by efficient policies and sanctions for those that offend.

Coun Ledger added: “It is a sad fact that fraud is part of everyday life at present. Our message to would-be fraudsters is simple – if you engage in fraudulent activity, we will find you and we will prosecute you.”