Council’s investigation team thwarts housing fraud

Crawley Town Hall 01-08-17. Pic Steve Robards SR1717251 SUS-170108-160252001
Crawley Town Hall 01-08-17. Pic Steve Robards SR1717251 SUS-170108-160252001

Investigations into housing fraud have seen four properties returned to Crawley Borough Council and saved an estimated £670,300.

The figures were part of a report put to the council’s audit committee on Wednesday (July 25) and covered investigations during the weeks between February 20 and July 8.

They included stopping six Right To Buy applications, which would have seen £472,300 in discounts given to the applicants, five fraudulent homelessness applications, and the recovery of two properties for registered social landlords.

Throughout 2017/18, the fraud and investigation team recovered nine properties for the council, eight for social landlords, prevented 15 fraudulent homelessness applications and stopped 16 Right To Buy applications with discounts totalling £1,247,600.

The year’s work saved the council around £1,823,600.

Detailing the importance of the investigations, the report stated that every property being misused cost the local authority £18,000 per year, with the cost of housing vulnerable families in temporary bed & breakfast accommodation costing around £100 per night.

Away from housing, investigators used tip-offs from the public to look into cases of people claiming the 25 per cent single person discount on their council tax bill while actually living with another adult.

Between February and July, 17 people had their discounts removed, with a total of £9,399 being recovered.

The figures for the year were 39 discounts removed, with £11,152 being recovered.

The report added: “In addition to their normal work the team have conducted an exercise matching single person discounts awarded on the council tax database against the Electoral Register database.

“This exercise highlights anomalies between the two.

“This exercise has resulted in the further removal of 130 single person discounts to which the resident was not entitled to.

“The value of the removed discounts is £49,048 and new bills have been issued.”

Committee members were told that the team was currently dealing with 85 cases, the majority involving housing. Other areas of investigation included fly tipping, non domestic rates and taxi licensing.

Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North) praised the team’s work as having ‘saved this council and the public purse a huge amount of money’.

Ian Irvine (Lab, Broadfield North) described the work as ‘fantastic’ and added: “The fly tipping case got a big cheer at the last council meeting.”