Chichester fraud team saving taxpayers’ money

Investigators at Chichester District Council have helped to recover almost £400,000 including wrongly awarded benefits and council tax discounts.

East Pallant House, Chichester. Pic Steve Robards SR2007221 SUS-200722-111704001
East Pallant House, Chichester. Pic Steve Robards SR2007221 SUS-200722-111704001

The work of the Corporate Investigations Team even saw them scupper an attempt to launder more than £3,000 through a business rate account.

During a meeting of the corporate governance and audit committee on Tuesday, members were told that stolen bank cards had been used to pay the rates on an empty building, with those involved then asking for a refund.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

If that refund had been paid, the council would have been £3,063 out of pocket.

Thanks to the work of the investigations team, the matter was passed on to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.

The majority of the money saved or recovered by the team – almost a quarter of a million pounds – centred around long-term empty homes.

Each year, the government pays the council a new homes bonus but reduces it for every home in the district that is empty.

The team discovered that 163 properties listed as empty had actually been brought back into use, adding £243,427 to the government bonus. 

Housing benefit overpayments totalling £32,615 were also uncovered, along with £118,969 of council tax reductions and single person discounts which should not have been awarded.

Looking at the year ahead, the amount of incorrect discounts or benefits uncovered so far stands at £17,516.

The work has been carried out despite key staff members being temporarily reassigned during the pandemic to help deal with business support grants.

A message from the Editor, Gary Shipton:

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news, I am asking you to please purchase a copy of our newspapers.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspapers.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

Stay safe, and best wishes.