Suffolk: Housing and council tax benefit fraudsters claim almost £370,000

Mid Suffolk District councillor Wendy Marchant

Mid Suffolk District councillor Wendy Marchant

COUNCILS in Suffolk are paying out almost £370,000 in housing and council tax benefits because of fraud, it has been revealed.

Mid Suffolk District, Babergh District and Ipswich Borough Councils are owed a total of £369,781 for 2012.

A breakdown of the figures shows Mid Suffolk is due £142,285, Babergh £46,770 and Ipswich £180,726.

The money is being falsely claimed by people through housing and council tax benefits which the councils are responsible for.

Wendy Marchant, a Liberal Democrat district councillor for Mid Suffolk, said: “I think it’s a matter of concern, really. We want the people who deserve the benefits to get them but obviously we do not want benefits to be claimed fraudulently when it’s not entitled to the person. There’s going to be more benefits needed if people cannot get jobs. I think the councils have enough powers. I think they are doing what they can, it’s a very difficult job.”

A counter-fraud team is based at Ipswich Borough but carries out investigations across the three council areas.

Siobhan Martin, audit partnerships manager for Ipswich Borough, said: “Ipswich, as with all other local authorities within the Suffolk Audit/Fraud Partnerships, operates on a zero-tolerance policy against all fraud.

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“Fraud is not a larger problem in Ipswich – rather the frauds identified are a direct reflection of the fact the town has a bigger pool of people claiming benefits compared to neighbouring district councils due to a higher population of residents.”

A spokeswoman for Babergh and Mid Suffolk said: “As a result of the strong working relationship we have with investigators from the Department of Work and Pensions, we continually pursue these through the courts to recover the money and to ensure that justice is brought to bear for the residents in our districts.”

The annual cost of the fraud team is £370,000.

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