Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s fraud team has prevented £2 million of public money falling into the hands of fraudsters over the last year.
Non-benefit fraud has a direct financial and social harm impact on local taxpayers, preventing public money being spent on local services. More than 160 cases of fraud were identified by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Corporate Fraud Team in 2020/21 including:
- 12 cases of housing tenancy fraud
- 22 cases of Right to Buy fraud
- Five relating to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme
- 118 involving the Council Tax Single Person Discount
- Six cases of Covid Business grant fraud
- One involving Business Rates Relief
- Four relating to the misuse of a Blue Badge
As a direct result of this work, there have been two prosecutions (for misuse of a Blue Badge and sub-letting a Council property) and three cautions (for misuse of a Blue Badge).
The city council, working with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, set up the Staffordshire Counter Fraud Partnership in 2019 to combine resources aimed at tackling non-benefit fraud. The partnership has since grown and now has nine local authorities and two housing associations involved.
The fraud awareness campaign of the Staffordshire Counter Fraud Partnership, ‘Spot the Cheater’ will now be looking to focus on Right to Buy fraud. As part of the partnership, Stoke-on-Trent City Council have prevented the purchase of 22 properties through Right to Buy applications with improved scrutiny and Anti-Money Laundering checks. This has saved the authority £706,530 in unlawful Right to Buy discounts that would otherwise have been awarded as well as an estimated £77,088 per year of public money in lost rental income, and also ensured those properties continue to be available for those who need them.
Councillor Abi Brown, leader of the city council said: “Our investigators work hard to root out those who wrongly reckon they can cheat the system and get away with it. The Staffordshire Counter Fraud Partnership is creating a strong anti-fraud culture across Staffordshire and takes a zero-tolerance approach towards fraud. Working together means we are safeguarding public money and raising awareness of how to report suspected fraud.
“Right to Buy can provide a foot on the property ladder to many people but fraudulent applications take money from vital local services as well as taking housing stock away from genuine council tenants.”
Anyone can report suspected fraudulent activity online at www.staffsfraud.org, by calling the council’s hotline on 01782 236800 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All reports will be treated confidentially and can be made anonymously.