4,500 fraud cases suspected in Wolverhampton
More than 4,000 people in Wolverhampton could have committed fraud this year, new figures have revealed.
The figures, released by City of Wolverhampton Council's audit and risk committee, show that since January this year there has been a total of 13,526 matches between the council's records and a government database set up to detect fraud.
Of these, a total of 4,558 have been listed as 'recommended', meaning they are likely to be instances of fraud.
The type of fraud the council looks to detect as part of its work with the government includes over and underpayments for housing and other services.
Now, the Cabinet Office is expecting the council to investigate each and every possible case.
So far, a total of 2,637 matches have been processed and 117 are being investigated, with the remaining due to be looked into.
Examples of the types of fraud already investigated include housing benefit claimants also illegally claiming for student loans, costing the council £2,682.
Since September this year, there has been instances of housing benefit claimants also claiming for pensions and people claiming pensions for people who are deceased.
People fraudulently claiming council tax reductions for a dead person has also cost the council £3,537.
The council has now revealed that its work is to feature again on the BBC's Council House Crackdown programme to highlight issues of people fraudulently claiming for council houses that they are not entitled to.
Some of the main issues the fraud team at the council is working on as a matter of urgency is fraud related to illegally subletting, people fraudulently applying for council tax reductions, people continuing to claim for payments after the person they were caring for has died, and cyber fraud.
According to a statement in the council committee's paper for December 2017: "The cost of fraud to local government is estimated at £2.1 billion a year. This is money that could be used for local services.
"The Counter Fraud Unit was set up within Audit Services, in response to the increased emphasis being placed upon both fraud prevention and detection by the Department for Communities and Local Government."
Councillor Craig Collingswood the chair of the council’s audit and risk committee said: "The Council is committed to creating and maintaining an environment where fraud, corruption and bribery will not be tolerated. The message is, the Council operates a zero tolerance on fraud, corruption and bribery whereby all instances will be investigated and the perpetrator(s) will be dealt with. Action will be taken to recover all monies stolen from the council.
“As can be seen in the report, the committee continues to play a pro-active hands on role in ensuring that the Council tackles fraud wherever it can arise and in providing assurance to the residents of the city.
"The council and Wolverhampton Homes has joined forces in tackling fraud across the city by combining its two fraud teams. This will see the former Wolverhampton Homes fraud team join the council’s fraud team and thereby gain additional investigatory powers, in particular with regards to investigating social housing fraud. These new powers will enhance the potential for the successful prosecution of tenancy fraud cases.
"The committee also heard that the Wolverhampton Homes fraud team had recently appeared on a number of episodes of the recent BBC One series Council House Crackdown, which documented a number of their recent successful cases. This move demonstrates the Council’s continued commitment to tackling fraud wherever it takes place.”