Cameron follows Birmingham benefit fraud lead

By on 10/08/2010 in News

On the day that Prime Minister David Cameron is set to announce that the Government is considering using private credit checking firms to tackle the £5billion national problem of benefit fraud, Birmingham City Council has released details of the scale of the problem in the city…

Overpaid benefits totalling £2.51million were unearthed last year by a fraud-busting team from Birmingham City Council.

In the 2009/10 financial year, 630 cases of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit fraud came to light and were subject to prosecutions and sanctions. Since April this year the team has taken legal action against 180 benefit fraudsters and unearthed a staggering £950,000 in overpaid benefits in the process.

Nationally £21.9billion is spent annually on Housing and Council Tax Benefit, so reducing the impact of fraud is key to the council - which deals with claims for 147,500 people at a cost of £542million annually.

At any one time the council's 18 strong team of Benefit Counter Fraud Team investigators has 2,000 cases ongoing as part of its effort to ensure that finances are protected, at a time when purse strings are being tightened across the public sector.

Cllr Randal Brew, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We have a zero tolerance to benefit fraud and the team of professional criminal investigators are dedicated to rooting it out.

“The city council is determined, more so than ever in the current financial climate, that those who have a rightful entitlement to benefit receive it and those that set out to defraud the system are brought to justice and the money recovered.

“Our team works to ensure that this happens and arranges for any losses due to fraud to be collected. It uses several ways to recover money including from on going entitlement or through instalment plans.”

In addition, the city council has taken legal action using the Proceeds of Crime Act on 11 individuals, where the loss to public funds was in excess of £145,000. In one case the courts ordered the individual to sell her car to make good the money she had stolen from the benefit system.

Cllr Brew added: “The drain on the public purse from benefit fraud is unacceptable - I would urge anyone who suspects that someone is committing an offence to get in touch with us.

“We will keep your identity confidential, so you can contact us without fear of any reprisals. No one can argue that benefits should go to those who are entitled, and not those who are playing the system.”

If anyone suspects someone of committing benefit fraud they should call the city council Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0121 303 9990. Benefit fraud can also be reported online. To find out more information visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/bhamaudit

ENDS

For further information contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621

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  1. Manuel Lozano says:

    Please note there is NOT a “£5billion national problem of benefit fraud” as you claim. The £5bn is fraud AND error – of which approx £1.5bn is classified as fraud. Your headline appears highly misleading.

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