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Council issues warning to anyone suspected of benefit fraud that they will be 'rigorously pursued'
Bradford Council has pledged to “rigorously pursue” people suspected of benefit fraud.
The warning was issued today after it emerged that more than £1m worth of benefit fraud has been prosecuted across the district since 2010.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information act show that, in 2010/11, there were 35 benefit prosecutions, amounting to a value of £291,791.
The following year, there were 36 with a value of £305,190.
In the last financial year, 2012/13, the number of prosecutions reduced to 26. The overall value of those prosecutions has yet to be released by the Council, although it did reveal that the first 19 of those prosecutions were valued at £290,995.
So far this financial year, the Council has successfully prosecuted 27 cases of benefit fraud. If those cases have followed the average value from the previous three years of nearly £10,000 per case, then the total value of benefit fraud cases prosecuted so far this year would already top £250,000.
The newly-released figures also show that the number of officers tackling cases has dropped from 10.4 to 5.6 in the last three years, while administration support staff dropped from 5 to 2.2 in the same time.
The Telegraph & Argus asked the Council about the impact of the reduction in the number of people dealing with benefit fraud cases.
A Council spokesman said: “Over time our processes, systems and the technology we are able to use has improved, we are also uncovering more complex fraud with large overpayments, spanning more than one year which has led to the amounts uncovered increasing.”
In the context of the drop in prosecutions between 2011/12 and 2012/13, the T&A asked if staff cuts had meant the Council being forced to ‘go soft’ on benefit fraud.
The spokesman said: “No. We are now prosecuting more people for different fraud such as Blue Badge fraud.
“The Council has a dedicated and fully-resourced fraud team consisting of appropriately trained counter fraud staff. The Council does seek financial redress and rigorously pursues the recovery of overpayment.”
The T&A asked if there was concern that benefit fraud could get worse due to benefit cuts.
The Council said: “It is too early to say, but we are confident that controls are in place that prevent fraud entering the system. These include robust verification of documents, regular reviews of claims and clear documentation setting out the consequences of failing to declare true circumstances.”
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