Crawley council fraud investigations net huge savings for taxpayers

Crawley town hall
Crawley town hall

A woman who tried to get a council tax reduction by using false student certificates was among dozens of cases of fraud investigated by Crawley Borough Council.

Another saw a man prosecuted for fly-tipping after he dumped a large amount of rubbish from the back of a tipper van in a car park in Gasson Wood Road, Bewbush.

At a meeting of the council’s audit committee, members were told that the fraud team currently had 74 cases on the go, and had saved the council hundreds of thousands of pounds so far this financial year.

The majority of cases (22) involved housing non-occupation – tenants who had been assigned a council house but were living elsewhere – with many investigated because the team suspected the home was being sublet.

Council tax fraud was next, including the ‘fake student’, who would have received a £2,000 reduction had she not been caught.

Between September and November, the fraud team stopped three Right To Buy housing sales from going through, saving the council £242,700.

Throughout 2018/19, seven council homes were taken back, three homes were taken back for registered social landlords, seven Right To Buy sales were stopped, and five fraudulent housing applications were prevented.

The total saving to the council was £831,700.

The meeting was told that each home being misused – and therefore not available to anyone else- cost the authority an estimated £18,000 per year.

As for the ‘fake student’ and the flytipper, the report said she received a 12-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work and £500 costs, while he received a 12-month community order and had to pay the £171 it cost to clear up the rubbish.

He also received a 12-month driving ban and a three-month curfew for having no insurance, no tax and no MOT for the van.