Benefit cheats warned they should be ‘looking over their shoulder’ amid Norfolk crackdown

PUBLISHED: 14:46 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:46 13 March 2019

Tom FitzPatrick. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Tom FitzPatrick. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk Conservatives

Benefit cheats have been warned they should be ‘looking over their shoulder’ after the launch of a fraud crackdown which council bosses say could recoup hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Norfolk Counter Fraud Hub is a new initiative which sees Norfolk County Council teaming up with district, city and borough councils.

The hub will mean local government agencies and housing associations will be able to share and screen data to detect where fraudulent payments are being made.

That will mean investigations into suspected cheats and fraudsters can be prioritised, based on any discrepancies found by the system.

Conservative county councillor Tom FitzPatrick, who chairs the county council’s digital innovation and efficiency committee, said: “This sophisticated new system will enable, for the first time, partners in Norfolk to work together to stamp out fraud and errors across the county.

“We’re expecting the fraud hub to generate £100,000s of increased income and reduced expenditure in the first year alone. And this money can then be spent on people who genuinely need it.

“This is another great example of how we can use technology to become more efficient, effective and ultimately save thousands of pounds that can be reinvested in the people of Norfolk.”

The Fraud Hub matches data held nationally and locally such as electoral roll, payroll and benefit claims, to check eligibility for payments and concessions.

The matches are used to target investigations, for example to identify anyone who is mistakenly or fraudulently claiming single person discount on their council tax bill.

The Norfolk Counter Fraud Hub is now live. All six districts, along with Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council have signed up.

The work is based on a scheme which was set up in London boroughs to identify, stop and prevent fraud.

Fraud costs local authorities an estimated £2.1bn a year - a major drain on local authority resources at a time when government funding is dwindling.

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