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Fraud crackdown saves £4.3m of public money from going to waste

PUBLISHED: 08:43 24 June 2017

Fraudulent Right to Buy applications have been stopped by the team. File picture: GETTY IMAGES

Fraudulent Right to Buy applications have been stopped by the team. File picture: GETTY IMAGES

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An anti-fraud taskforce working across three Suffolk authorities has stopped more than £4.3million of public money being lost to fraud in the last 12 months, latest figures have shown.

The Waveney District Council Riverside building in Canning Road.  Picture: Nick Butcher. The Waveney District Council Riverside building in Canning Road. Picture: Nick Butcher.

A team of five full-time specialists work across Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils, investigating suspicious activity in Right to Buy applications, blue badge and bus pass misuse, social housing and housing benefits and council tax fraud among other offences.

After being formed in May 2015, the team stopped more than £3.2m of fraudulent activity in its first year across the three councils, and has now reported it has prevented £4.3m for the last 12 months.

Siobhan Martin, head of internal audit for the three authorities, said: “It’s really making sure the money is there for the purpose it is there for, and providing value for money.

“We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud, and we do really mean it because there are people losing out from this.

“We are here to provide a public service the public are paying for, so it is about building public confidence.”

Among some of the issues identified were people using false identification, applying for Right to Buy discounts when they were unable to demonstrate how they could pay a mortgage or were otherwise ineligible, sub-letting council houses and misusing bus passes and blue badges.

In Ipswich, 29 Right to Buy applications were stopped, saving nearly £2m alone.

A further 21 were stopped in Waveney saving another £2m.

Mrs Martin said the figures did not necessarily mean more fraud was happening, but said a greater network of contacts, more experience and the addition of another investigator has helped the team prevent more fraud from happening.

It has now been approached by other authorities and agencies to help in their own work, but reiterated its zero tolerance message to would-be fraudsters. Mrs Martin added: “We will take them down and we will prosecute if necessary.”

A Suffolk police spokesman said the constabulary worked closely with partner agencies, including the fraud team, and worked alongside it to curb any criminal activity found during investigations.

To report suspicious activity, confidentially call 01473 433999.

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