Councils save £3.2m in Right to Buy and tenancy fraud
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More than £3.2million of public money has been saved after detailed investigations by three councils identified fraudulent Right to Buy applications.
The project was set up last year as a partnership between Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, with the purpose of cracking down on irresponsible applications.
And after the first financial year’s figures were collated, statistics revealed millions had been saved.
For Ipswich and Waveney, £1.6m each had been stopped in fraudulent Right to Buy applications, which included people who were unable to provide identification, unable to provide details of how they would fund a mortgage and people who already owned a property elsewhere.
A further £126,000 was saved in tenancy fraud identified in Ipswich, which included people no longer living at addresses and those who attempted to sub-let council properties.
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In the Suffolk Coastal area £15,000 of disabled facilities grants were stopped for people who did not need them, while a crackdown on blue badge fraud in Ipswich resulted in eight expired badges and three misused badges being seized.
Siobhan Martin, head of internal audit across the three authorities, said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud and we are here to protect public money.
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“The aim wasn’t to stop people buying – it’s to support genuine buyers and to filter out those that are not, and to make sure the housing stock is there for those who need it.”
The council now interviews everyone who makes a Right to Buy application to help people through the process, and in turn flags up those applications which are illegitimate or suspicious.
And following the success of the first year, the team will continue to investigate suspicious applications across all public grants including council tax and bus passes.
Mrs Martin added: “It’s really demonstrating value for money – every pound is worth saving and we want to use the money right, so the councils are looking at that seriously.”
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Matt Connick, of Suffolk Police, added; “Whilst this is a council initiative, we work closely with our partners, including sharing information, in order to tackle all types of fraud.”
If you suspect someone of fraud, contact the fraud hotline on 01473 433999.