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pounds 3.5m of benefit fraud uncovered.

COUNCIL bosses in Birmingham have declared war on benefit fraudsters after uncovering pounds 3.5 million of fiddled claims.

Investigators probed hundreds of cases of housing benefit and council tax offences over a 16-month period, and successfully prosecuted 810 offenders. Cabinet finance member Randal Brew is determined to crack down on fraudulent claims in an effort to protect the public purse.

Coun Brew (Con Northfield) said: "We have zero tolerance to benefit fraud and a team of professional criminal investigators is dedicated to rooting it out. "The 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 uses several ways to recover money including reducing on-going entitlement or through instalment plans."

In the 2009-10 financial year, 630 cases of fraud came to light and were subject to prosecutions and sanctions. Since April this year, legal action has been taken against 180 claimants unearthing pounds 950,000 in overpaid bene-fits in the process.

In addition, the council has used the Proceeds of Crime Act against 11 individuals to recover pounds 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.

The council deals with claims for 147,500 people a year, paying out pounds 542 million in benefits.

Coun 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. No one can argue that benefits should go to those who are entitled, and not those who are playing the system.

"We will keep your identity confidential, so you can contact us without fear of any reprisals."

Anyone who suspects someone of fiddling benefits can call the fraud hotline on 0121 303 9990, or report details on www.birmingham.gov.uk/bhamaudit OUR SAY: PAGE 14
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 27, 2010
Words:350
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