A council crackdown on housing fraud has seen a steep rise in the number of cases foiled, with the prevention of almost £1.3m of theft from the public purse in 2018/19 – a rise of over £470,000 on the previous year.
Ealing Council’s audit and investigation team helped to protect 71 badly needed council homes from falling into the wrong hands.
Cases that the team tackled included:
– 43 fraudulent housing waiting list claims, where the person falsified entitlement claims in order to make themselves a priority candidate, for example by pretending to be from a badly overcrowded home.
– 9 false homelessness cases, where the person pretended to be homeless.
– 19 council homes recovered from fraudulent use – all of which were either illegally sublet or left vacant by their tenants. This represents a 280% rise on the previous year.
The dramatic jump in savings have been delivered through a new strategy which encourages cross-council working to flag up key fraud risks. A new focus on prevention and detection has also enabled the team to target its resources at the right cases.
“Protecting taxpayer’s money”
Councillor Peter Mason, Ealing Council’s lead member for housing, planning and transformation said: “Tackling fraud is a strategic priority for Ealing. This vital work, which has protected almost £1.3 million of taxpayers’ money, means that 71 much-needed council homes can now be allocated to families in genuine need.
“Ealing’s government funding has been cut by 64%. That means that for every pound we used to receive, we now get just 36p. At the same time, demand is growing, especially in homelessness and adult social care. With such extreme pressures, it is important that we make every penny count by directing our services and support to those who need it most.
“We take these cases very seriously and will pursue the strongest possible measures against fraudsters, including prosecution.”
If you suspect that fraud relating to council property or services is taking place, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.