Cracking down on fraud saves £300k

A town hall crackdown on fraud has saved Wigan taxpayers more than £300,000, according to finance bosses

Friday, 1st July 2016, 2:29 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2016, 4:32 pm
Wigan Town Hall

Local authority auditors exposed more than 500 cases of fraudulent, false or erroneous claims for a range of benefits totalling over £330,000 .

The figures have been revealed in the town hall’s annual finance reports and sound an ominous message to residents hoping to exploit the system.

Chairman of the council’s audit committee, Coun Carl Sweeney, said: “I hope this sends a strong message to those committing fraud and deters them from ripping off the local taxpayer.

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“I’d like to thank the audit team for all their hard work in helping to save the council and its taxpayers money by identifying errors and improving the council’s performance.”

In total the council managed to identify savings of £334,977 through errors or fraudulent claims involving housing benefit, council tax benefit, blue badge abuse, housing rents and personal budgets, the report states.

Between April 2015 to March 2016, four people were prosecuted for housing benefit fraud, 12 were issued with penalties and another 27 cases were proven and those involved ordered to repay.

A total of 50 Council Tax reduction overpayments were identified and will be repaid – saving the council an additional £20,274.

In addition, 66 investigations into alleged blue badge fraud/abuse were proven with 47 issued with warning letters, 57 blue badges destroyed, eight formal cautions issued – saving a total of £33,000.

The report will go before the audit, governance and improvement review committee later this month.

Yesterday the Wigan Evening Post reported the council had hit its £12m savings target for the past year with a £210,000 surplus.

Next year the town hall faces making £15m cutbacks, with deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt warning there will be tough times ahead.

He said: “In terms of the council’s savings plan, we’re on target and delivered with that and in fact we’re £210,000 better off.

“But there’s still a long way to go, we’re about halfway through but it gets harder each year.

“Our budget is reducing and with each year we’re taking out more and more.”