Merton Council has proved how serious it is about tackling housing benefit fraud with a report that indicates a growing number of successful cautions and prosecutions.
The Audit Committee report shows that in the year up to March 31st 2007 67 sanctions were administered on residents claiming housing benefits fraudulently. This included four successful prosecutions, 33 cautions, and 30 administrative penalties or fines.
Legal action can be taken against residents who do not inform the Council correctly about their situation. The offences in the last year that led to cautions and prosecutions ranged from contrived tenancy, to failure to notify, to failure to declare capital or property.
The four successful prosecutions included two residents who were working and claiming benefit simultaneously, one who had returned to work without notification and another who had a contrived tenancy and had been using fabricated documents as proof of their tenancy. Two of the fraudulent claimants have been sent to prison as a result of their actions and all have made arrangements so that they pay back in full the money they have taken illegally from the Council.
The report also shows that the success of the benefit fraud investigation team is continuing to provide results with three more successful prosecutions processed so far since April this year.
Councillor Samantha George, Deputy Leader, London Borough of Merton adds:
“Merton Council always aims to put the residents first and concentrate on frontline services. In order to accomplish this, tracking down those who cheat the system is crucial. The success of the benefit investigation team sends a serious message to anyone who has not declared changes in their circumstances correctly. We are always striving to be a fitter, faster, and more focused organisation through the efficient deployment of our resources. This report demonstrates that Merton will not hesitate to caution and prosecute benefit cheats so that we can deliver the best results for residents.”