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Feb 03 2014

The cost of fraud to Harrow’s Council Tax payers revealed

harrow_council_logo2In the last year, Harrow’s taxpayers have been cheated out of £315,000 due to fraudulent benefit and care payment claims.

The eye-watering sum is just one of the facts that we are revealing as part of our first ever anti-fraud week, which is dedicated to stamping out all council-related fraud.

All week we will be reminding people how much fraud costs and what they can do if they suspect someone is cheating the system.

We will also continue our ongoing work to identify and take action against fraudsters. Our fraud team work all year round to crack down on fraud and since April 2013 they have:

  • Identified actual fraud and prevented fraud losses to the tune of £1million*.
  • Identified 25 cases of housing/council tax benefit fraud and social care direct payment fraud amounting to £315,000 and successfully prosecuted 12 people.
  • Dealt with a number of housing tenancy fraud cases by repossessing properties subject to misuse. This has generated savings of just under £600,000 by freeing up council accommodation and moving people out of costly temporary accommodation much sooner than expected.
  • Intercepted a fraudulent right to buy and a number of fraudulent housing applications saving in the region of £200,000.
  • Seized 18 disabled blue parking badges suspected of misuse during four blue badge enforcement operations and as a result successfully prosecuted one individual and cautioned nine others.

The four areas at risk of fraud are: disabled parking badge fraud, where someone displays a badge they are not entitled to display; false claims and unreported changes in circumstances for housing benefit and council tax support; housing tenancy fraud, where someone does not use their council housing as their principle home or sublets it; social care and personal budgets fraud, where people misuse or fraudulently claim money the Council gives them to spend on personal care.

In December, fraudster Sivasubramanian Srithar was ordered to pay back £15,000 in benefits that he claimed for a Harrow property, despite owning his own home in Coventry. Checks by Harrow Council revealed Srithar was also claiming benefits in Coventry, while his daughter and her family were living in the Harrow house. Magistrates sentenced him to 24 weeks custody suspended for 12 months, with a curfew of 7pm- 7am for 12 weeks.

Harrow Council Leader Cllr Susan Hall said: “Fraud is stealing, plain and simple, and people are not just stealing from us, they are stealing from their neighbours who work hard and pay their taxes. I hope this week will really show people how unfair this type of behaviour is and what the Council is doing to stamp it out.”

If you want to report someone committing fraud against the Council, you can visit: www.harrow.gov.uk/fraud or call 020 8424 1834.

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1 comment

  1. Linda Robinson

    I notice that comments have been disabled under
    http://www.iharrow.com/council/subletting-of-council-homes-is-now-a-criminal-offence/#comment-2092

    I was going to add that it is two years since I helped Harrow Housing to identify a woman who, having obtained a council flat under false pretences by lying about her age and fabricating a refugee status, never actually stays in it because she’s either a) overseas in the country she was supposed to have fled in fear, with a new passport in a different name, b) overseas somewhere else having a “holiday”, c) somewhere else in the UK staying with “friends”, d) sleeping with different wealthy men in their own homes in return for money which she then spends on travelling or sends back to her country of origin, or e) resting in the psychiatric unit at Northwick Park.

    Yes, basically she is a prostitute, but quite different from the self-supporting, privately renting Romanian girls we’ve uncovered in South Harrow brothels. This one has a council flat she doesn’t need, except as an address to claim her considerable benefit entitlements, which she mostly uses to buy drugs and clothes, and gifts for her family back home. So, of course, she lets other people stay in her council flat instead. Why wouldn’t she?

    Will I go to the trouble of reporting this person again? Probably not. No one likes snitching on individuals, so when you’ve twice summoned the courage to do the right thing and then, like Mike McFadden’s experience too, the authorities do nothing about it and the perpetrator carries on conning them out of public money and resources year after year, well why would you bother?

    If Susan Hall and her new fraud team are serious about this clamp down, she knows where I am.

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