Anti fraud investigations by City of Wolverhampton Council and Wolverhampton Homes saved taxpayers an estimated £1.2 million last year.

Both organisations operate a zero tolerance fraud policy and have counter fraud teams that work together to prevent, detect and investigate suspected misuse of public funds.

Action is always taken against fraudsters to prosecute where appropriate and recover losses.

At a recent meeting of the council's audit and risk committee, councillors were given an update of the team's work during the 2015 to 2016 financial year.

It revealed that counter fraud investigations had uncovered:

  • 38 cases of Wolverhampton Homes tenancy fraud such as false applications and non occupation of properties. The estimated value of this fraud was £684,000
  • 931 cases of people falsely claiming the single person Council Tax discount. The estimated value of this fraud was £230,000

  • 16 cases of Wolverhampton Homes properties being illegally sublet. The estimated value of this fraud was £288,000

Some of the more audacious frauds uncovered included a woman claiming to be homeless and sleeping on a sofa with her children forced to stay with relatives. She had applied for a council house, but after investigation it was revealed she was not homeless at all and was actually living in a privately rented home. Her application was cancelled.

In another case, a man claimed to have 5 children living with him in an overcrowded house which gave him a higher priority on the housing waiting list and the offer of a 3 bedroom council property.

Investigations revealed that in fact only 2 children lived with the man and the property was not overcrowded. The housing offer was withdrawn.

The man refused to admit that he had lied on his application and took the council to court to try and get the decision overturned. The judge ruled in the council's favour, dismissed the case and awarded the council costs of almost £6,000.

Councillor Craig Collingswood, chairman of the council's audit and risk committee, said that investigating fraud and protecting the public purse was an important priority for the council and Wolverhampton Homes.

He said: "We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud. People who effectively steal from the public purse are not stealing from the council, they are stealing from fellow taxpayers who may be in genuine need of something like a council house or other services.

"Tenancy fraud can be very attractive as a result of the increasing value of properties in the housing market. Every such fraud results in a property no longer being available for a genuine tenant.

"We are very pleased with the work of the counter fraud unit and will continue to support the work of the council and Wolverhampton Homes to crack down, prevent and detect fraud."

Information from the public is vital to the successful investigation of fraud. If you have suspicions a fraud is being committed it can be reported online at Type=articles;Articleid=8353;Title=Counter Fraud Successes; or by calling 01902 550 550.

  • released: Friday 7 October, 2016