Bassetlaw: Council trying to re-coup more than £100k in housing benefit overpayments

Bassetlaw District Council, Queen's Buildings

Bassetlaw District Council, Queen's Buildings

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Council bosses are trying to re-coup more than £100,000 in housing benefit overpayments racked up by cheats in the last three years, it can be revealed.

A Freedom of Information request earlier this year by the Guardian found that benefit fraudsters had been ordered to pay the authority a total of £214,567 between 2012 and 2014.

We can now reveal the council is still owed £114,766 of that figure.

Coun Sylvia May, cabinet member for corporate and customer services at Bassetlaw Council, said: “Due to the successful prosecutions by the council, £114,766 is to be paid back to the taxpayer by housing benefit cheats.”

“None of this money will be written off and, once recovered, will go back into the benefits pot to be used as it was intended and help local people who are genuine housing benefit claimants and are experiencing hard times.”

The council was unable to provide details for overpayments in Council Tax.

The response to the Guardian’s FOI stated: “As the Council Tax benefit overpayments, included in the £214,000 total, are reclaimed through the Council Tax bills, we are unable to provide you with the outstanding amount of overpayment.”

The Guardian investigation found the five biggest single sums range from £7,500 to over £13,000.

Of the 49 people who have been prosecuted in the last three years, 28 were from Worksop.

Bassetlaw MP John Mann said: “It is right that these people have been tracked down and that those who have acted fraudulently have been prosecuted. Efforts now need to be made to recover the lost money.”

“If the council chooses to name and shame people they will have my support.”

Twelve of the offenders received community orders, two cases resulted in custodial sentences and two were handed suspended sentences.

If someone is suspected of benefit fraud they will be contacted by either the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs, the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or a local authority.

The Government website states: “You’ll lose your benefits for up to three years if you’re convicted of benefit fraud. “

“How long you lose them for depends on how many times you’ve committed fraud.”

The council said all of the money recovered from cheats will go back into the benefits system and cannot be used for other council services or initiatives.

Coun May added: “We hope this demonstrates that benefits cheats will be found out and, when caught, will be pursued through the legal system and made to pay the money back.”