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Housing benefit cheats falsely claimed more than half a million pounds last year says Gravesham Council

PUBLISHED: 10:01 24 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:01 24 August 2015

Gravesham Borough Council offices

Gravesham Borough Council offices

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Ten council homes taken back from people who are no longer living in them

Housing benefit cheats falsely claimed more than half a million pounds last year with council tax fraud totalling £173,390 Gravesham Borough Counci has revealed.

The council carried out 636 investigations, identifying housing benefit fraud totalling £535,156 and future benefit awards have now been cut by £465,124 per year and future council tax reduction awards have been reduced by £65,458 per year.

The inquiries led to the recovery of ten council homes from people who were no longer using the properties as their homes and in some cases tenants were suspected of sub-letting, which is now a criminal offence.

The tenant of one of the properties recovered was also attempting to purchase the property under the right to buy scheme, which would have seen him receive a £75,000 discount.

There were 13 convictions for benefit fraud during the year, with minor offences receiving sanctions including cautions or fines of 50 per cent of the

falsely-claimed benefit, as well as the repayment of the overpaid benefit. There were 15 cautions for minor offences and seven people received penalties.

Another 38 people receiving single person’s council tax discounts were given fixed penalties of £70 for failing to report a change in their circumstances.

Council leader Cllr John Cubitt said: “Fraud committed against the council is theft and the victims are the council taxpayers. It takes vital funds away from the council that could be used for other services and the misuse of council housing also contributes to the strain on social housing.

“As the figures prove, the council takes fraud very seriously. If you suspect that someone is committing fraud, you should report your concerns so that the matter can be investigated. If you are tempted to commit fraud of any kind against the council, be aware that you will not get away with it.”

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