Benefits fraudsters claim £330,000 in South Holland

BENEFIT cheats in South Holland who illegally claimed more than £330,000 between them have been brought to justice.

Information revealed to the Lincolnshire Free Press under a Freedom of Information request shows that between April 1, 2005, and March 31, 2010, the district council took action against 98 cases of benefit fraud.

The total amount of fraud uncovered was £330,943.84, and of this total £2,585.22 (less than 0.8 per cent) has been written off as the council was unable to recover the money. The remaining amount has either been repaid or is in the process of being recovered.

Coun Paul Przyszlak, deputy leader of South Holland District Council, said: “People who commit benefit fraud are stealing money from council tax payers in the district.

“As the figures show, they always have to pay the money back to us. They also face formal caution, prosecution, imprisonment or extra financial penalties. We will catch up with them sooner or later so they ought to realise by now that it’s simply not worth the risk.

“Eradicating fraud and error from the benefits system is a high priority for us and the present Government. Each year, advances in technology and data matching techniques make it harder for benefit cheats to avoid detection. As a result, we have already exceeded the number of proven fraud cases compared to previous years and we still have three months to go.

“We currently have a number of investigations ongoing and we have a close working relationship with investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions. We always ensure that the full extent of any offending is put before the courts so that the most appropriate punishment can be imposed.”

The number of cases in which the council has taken action has increased year on year with 23 cases, totalling £84,647.58, dealt with in 2009-10. Of that money £58,385.52 was claimed as housing and Council Tax benefit and income support, with the biggest single claim totalling £41,117.13.

In 2008-09 there were 22 cases totalling £33,351.02. The single largest claim was for £8,224.26 of housing and Council Tax benefit.

The breakdown for that year includes £18,577.12 for housing and Council Tax benefit, £1,219.66 of Council Tax benefit, £3,687.11 of housing benefit, £4,593.62 of housing and Council Tax benefit and income support, £2,553.67 in housing benefit and income support and £2,719.84 in Council Tax benefit, incapacity benefit and income support.

There were 20 cases in 2007-08 (total £99,503.77), 20 in 2006-07 (£72,317.84) and 13 in 2005-06 (£41,123.63).

Coun Przyszlak said: “I would urge anyone committing fraud now, or thinking of doing so, to report their changes in circumstances and get their benefit claims in order.

“We will pursue anyone committing benefit fraud and we are prepared to invest resources proportionate to the offence, for example conducting surveillance to secure vital evidence, which will lead to successful prosecutions. There really is no place to hide if you are committing benefit fraud.”