Crack team stops £5.5m in taxpayer cash being lost to housing fraud in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 16:14 27 July 2018
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More than £5.5million of Suffolk taxpayers' cash was saved from being lost to fraudulent attempts to buy council homes or claim tenancy, it has emerged.
A dedicated corporate fraud team which works across Ipswich, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils investigates a host of areas such as Right to Buy applications, tenancy fraud including sub-letting, blue badge misuse and business rates as part of a “zero tolerance” approach.
In the last 12 months, 16 Right to Buy claims were stopped in Ipswich, while eight council properties were recovered because of tenancy fraud, preventing £1,917,466 being lost.
At Waveney and Suffolk Coastal there were 39 RtB applications prevented and 21 tenancy fraud issues stopped, equating to £3,651,940.
Siobhan Martin, head of audit at the three councils said it was not about stopping genuine applications but preventing money from the public purse being lost to fraud.
“It’s very key we return appropriate housing stock, but also to support the legitimate people who deserve to buy these properties that meet the criteria,” she said.
“I am very proud of how dedicated the team are.”
For questionable applications, interviews were held asking for the appropriate financial evidence, which helped genuine applicants continue correctly and stopped speculative or fraudulent claims before it was too late.
Existing fraud, county court judgements on insolvency and instances where people were unable to demonstrate how they could pay were also stopped.
With tenancy fraud, it is understood the issue of sub-letting had also flagged other serious crimes such as illegal immigration and prostitution.
The team works alongside police, the National Crime Agency, the border agency and other partners to help crack down on the issue, with cybercrime becoming a key area of involvement.
“We are branching out into more areas where there are growing concerns, and our strategies are all about that,” Mrs Martin said.
Investigations into historic fraud and more prosecutions are on the cards for the next 12 months, Mrs Martin added.
To confidentially report a suspected fraud case, call 01473 433999 or 01394 444444.