£2.4million housing benefit and 'right to buy' fraud crackdown in Ipswich

martin cook ipswich borough council

Martin Cook, Ipswich Borough councillor - Credit: Martin Cook

Ipswich Borough Council has stopped and prevented fraud totalling £2.45 million, it has emerged.

In the last year action on Right To Buy and Housing Benefit has remained a big priority for the council. 

The money saved on people not buying a council property under Right To Buy due to fraud investigations was £1,244,145 in 2020/21.

This can include people that are buying the property for someone else and whose application looks fraudulent to IBC's corporate fraud and tenancy services.

Some of these cases have also included money laundering and funding terrorism in the past, portfolio holder for finances at Ipswich Borough Council, councillor Martin Cook, said.

Mr Cook added often 40% withdraw their application for the right to buy following fraud teams getting in touch as they "know they've been rumbled" and others are denied by the council. 

IBC also recovered and prevented housing benefit losses of £1,209,000 during the last financial year. 

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This is often people who have not been entitled to the benefit, say they are homeless when they're not, and are leasing their council homes without letting IBC know, according to Mr Cook. 

As applications for Right to Buy have fallen, during the pandemic from 135 in 2019/20 to 94 in 2020/21, the number of cases investigated for fraud has also fallen from 77 to 36. 

During 2020/21, 38 IBC properties were sold under the Right To Buy scheme with an average discount of £82,943 per property with 15 cases found to be fraudulent and stopped. 

Housing makes up the biggest amount of fraud investigated by Ipswich Borough Council, on 72%, made up of housing and housing benefit, revenues is on 14% and Covid-19 business grants a total of 9%.

Mr Cook, added: "Ipswich Borough Council has a zero tolerance to fraud and our message to those looking to do this is they will be stopped. 

"If you think there is fraud going on residents are encourage to contact us. Any report will be investigated."

If you suspect someone of fraud, contact the fraud hotline on 01473 433999. You can also report online here ipswich.gov.uk/corporatefraud.