Preston Council claws back cash from benefit cheats

A zero-tolerance approach to benefit fraud has seen £140,000 recovered from residents in Preston.

Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 4:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th June 2017, 1:55 pm
Preston town hall

Preston Council bosses say the clawed back funds will be essential as they “strive to do more for less” in the wake of significant funding cuts.

Officers also recovered four social housing properties not being used as the tenants’ principal home during the last financial year.

The figures have been released as part of a counter-fraud report set to be discussed by the council’s audit committee this week.

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Officers found £140,876 worth of over-payments caused by fraudulent claims or residents not reporting changes in circumstances affecting their benefits.

A council spokesman said: “The Government’s austerity programme has led to a substantial reduction in funding and this means that as a council we must strive to do more for less.

“It is vital that we ensure our limited funds are directed towards the provision of essential services and that we minimise our losses to fraud.

"Preston City Council has a duty to safeguard public funds and therefore has adopted a zero tolerance approach to fraud.

“As such, we have a Corporate Inquiry Team, which works closely with the police and other agencies to prevent, detect and deter fraud against the council and its partners.”

The overpayments consisted of council tax reduction scheme funds totalling £34,940, council tax benefit of £3,089, housing benefit of £45,668, council tax of £55,726 and business rates of £1,452.

A council spokesman added: “It is in the public interest that we investigate all levels of fraud against the council and take firm action against offenders. If you have any suspicions of fraudulent action, please get in touch with the council using our fraud hotline 01772 906316 or e-mail [email protected]