Benefits worth £63k overpaid in suspected fraud since April

obby 12/9 crawley borough council logo
obby 12/9 crawley borough council logo

More than £60,000 in fraudulent or incorrect housing benefit claims was paid by Crawley Borough Council between April and June.

A report which went before the council’s audit and governance committee described how a total of £63,930 had been overpaid in the two-month period up to June 10, with 85 cases of suspected benefit fraud being reported.

The council’s fraud team is investigating a total of 143 cases, mainly relating to claims for housing benefit, council tax and business rates.

In 2013/2014 as a whole, £348,144 of benefit was identified as having been overpaid, and the report detailed several cases which had been successfully dealt with by the team.

The first involved the prosecution of a man from Southgate who claimed £16,000 in benefits over three years despite receiving income from his employer under its payment protection policy.

He was convicted and received a two-year conditional discharge.

Another involved a fraudulent Right To Buy application which would have resulted in a discount of £70,000 being approved for the purchase of a council-owned home had the team not realised information given on the application had been false.

A third saw a woman cautioned and removed from the housing register after she told benefits advisers she and her children were living with her mother when they were, in fact, living with the father of the children who owned his own property.

In 2013/14, 10 people were prosecuted for benefit fraud, 17 received an administrative penalty – such as being removed from the housing list – and seven received a caution.

Between April and June 10, one prosecution has been made and one administrative penalty.

A council spokesman said: “We have robust procedures in place to mitigate against fraud, both at the start and throughout the life of a claim.

“Benefits assessors are trained to identify fraud risks and refer these cases for investigation.

“The council uses data matching to help identify claims of concern and has a public hotline and website set up to take referrals.

“We work closely with other Government departments including other local authorities, the Department of Work and Pensions, police, immigration and social housing providers.”