1 What are we doing to combat housing and council tax benefit fraud?
Benefit fraud is costing taxpayers an estimated £1 billion per year. This is money that could be used to pay for other vital services. Fraud has an impact on the level of Council tax, the level of Income Tax and the level of resources available to share amongst our community.
The council pays out in excess of £350 million in housing and council tax support each year and we have a duty to protect those funds from fraud and abuse and to investigate fraud. In 2012/13 we identified £1.8 million in fraudulent overpayments of housing and council tax benefit.
Many people say benefit fraud is a victimless crime. The only way you are not a victim is if you either do not pay income tax or council tax or do not receive any service from the council or the government. We are all victims.
There are many types of benefit fraud. The main frauds affecting Brent are shown below and if you know anyone who is committing fraud please use the hotline to tell us about it.
Working and Claiming
Not declaring a partner living in the property
Failing to declare property ownership or other assets
Failing to declare an income from a business
Not resident at the property
We have a dedicated team of experienced staff that will investigate all allegations of Housing Benefit and Council Tax fraud with a view to identifying and bringing perpetrators to book. Brent Council is fully committed to obtaining the maximum penalty for anyone who has committed fraud. We seek to apply a prosecution, official caution or fine in all cases where fraud is established. Each case is assessed on its merits. The more serious the fraud, the more severe the sanction we will look to apply. We will also seek financial restitution via confiscation and compensation.
If you were originally a genuine claimant but had a change of circumstances which you did not tell the council about i.e. you started work, you will be receiving benefit to which you are not entitled. If this has only been going on for a few weeks, do not be frightened to tell us now. We will expect the money back but it is unlikely that we will seek to apply a sanction against you, provided you own up now and tell us the truth. It is better to tell us now than wait to get caught.