Success for the Kirklees fraud-busters
Oct 29 2010 Huddersfield Daily Examiner
FRAUD-BUSTERS in Kirklees have solved almost £3.5m worth of benefit fraud cases.
And they have been so successful in tracking down the cheats, they have offered to help out other councils in West Yorkshire.
The new figures have been revealed today following an Audit Commission report into the work of councils in recovering £135m nationally.
The Kirklees team has discovered £2.5m of fraudulent claims for housing and council tax benefit, and has already recovered just under half that amount. They are continuing to pursue the other 50%.
But they have also uncovered £950,000 of other benefit fraud for the Department of Work and Pensions.
Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan said: “This sends out a message that we take fraud seriously.
“Not only will we investigate, we will actively press to claim back fraudulently claimed money, or seize assets where the money has been spent.
“Criminals who defraud the benefits system are stealing from all of us, and every pound we regain is a pound towards saving other services.
“It is vital that those who are eligible have all the benefits they need and are entitled to, and this is not about stigmatising genuine claims.
“I personally believe that the Government’s decision to axe the Audit Commission could weaken the fight to combat fraud.”
Kirklees has now offered its service to the other West Yorkshire Councils (Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Calderdale) as well as West Yorkshire Trading Standards which enables the council to undertake proceeds of crime investigations on their behalf.
After fraudsters have been convicted, the team take on cases and conduct thorough investigations into people’s finances to establish whether or not they have benefited from the proceeds of crime.
Once a financial investigation commences the investigators will also look for evidence of other offences such as money laundering and mortgage fraud and where appropriate will include these within the prosecution case.
Michael O’Higgins, chairman of the Audit Commission, said: “Cheats must not be allowed to block legitimate tenants from social housing, or divert other resources away from those in need.
“Councils have already performed well in fighting fraud, but need to be more and more vigilant. New processes and systems often open up new opportunities for fraudsters. Service providers need to stay one step ahead.
“For example, the number of people with personal social care budgets is increasing rapidly and councils must ensure that these vulnerable people are adequately protected.”