'Shake-up threatens fraud investigations'

City councillor Ed Turner

City councillor Ed Turner

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

HOUSING benefit fraud investigations could suffer when they are handed to the Government, Oxford City Council’s deputy leader has warned.

The council will lose the powers to a Government body from February under national reforms.

Ed Turner, the Labour-run council’s deputy leader, said the move to a “Single Fraud Investigation Service” was “nonsense”.

He said: “The Government has said it is going to take over detecting all fraud and we remain to be convinced whether it will be able to do that.

“It has told us it is taking away the money to fund this and if the Government has the same success taking over this service as it had with the reforming of benefits then it is not going to go very well.”

He added: “It is very likely that we as a council will retain some general fraud capacity.

“There are other areas which are vulnerable to fraud such as council tax and business rates that we wouldn’t trust the Government to root out.

“We won’t go down the road of saying that the Government is looking after this so it will be all right.”

The council is reviewing “resourcing requirements” but Holywell councillor David Thomas said he feared it would hit other benefit investigations. The Green Party member said: “I think they do a brilliant job and I would like to see the team maintained.

“My concern will be that the council will not be able to recover the same amount of cash from fraud as it has done in the past.”

Suzy Drohan, joint manager of Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, which gives benefits advice, said she was also concerned.

She said: “When you deal with a Government agency it is normally through a call centre and it just ends up with a lot of frustration.

“You will probably lose that personal touch and local knowledge.

“It might look like it cuts costs but it could cost more in the end because it means more work and the investigations might not be as thorough.

“Not all benefit investigations lead to fraud charges or money being paid back.”

Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “The council continues to be committed to eliminating all forms of bribery, fraud, corruption and to protecting public funds.”

The Department for Work and Pensions did not comment.

Its benefit reforms include the introduction of universal credit, a single payment to replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits.

It was meant to be piloted in October 2013 ahead of a national roll-out by 2017.

But so far only one of the four pilots has gone ahead following IT system failures.

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Comments (9)

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4:06pm Wed 30 Jul 14

norton manor says...

whatever happened to cameron's 'localism statergy'
whatever happened to cameron's 'localism statergy' norton manor
  • Score: 3

6:02pm Wed 30 Jul 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

norton manor wrote:
whatever happened to cameron's 'localism statergy'
Fraud doesn't have "local" borders though.

A local team may well spot some small-scale fraud... But what happens when that fraud crosses the border into Botley, Kennington, Kidlington or Garsington?

Well, we find that everyone in the various local authority teams works non-standard or "flexible" hours, doesn't do Friday afternoons, or Tuesday mornings and Wednesday mornings are for training...

So nothing gets done.

I worked in fraud for many years - you need to think big data for analysis.
[quote][p][bold]norton manor[/bold] wrote: whatever happened to cameron's 'localism statergy'[/p][/quote]Fraud doesn't have "local" borders though. A local team may well spot some small-scale fraud... But what happens when that fraud crosses the border into Botley, Kennington, Kidlington or Garsington? Well, we find that everyone in the various local authority teams works non-standard or "flexible" hours, doesn't do Friday afternoons, or Tuesday mornings and Wednesday mornings are for training... So nothing gets done. I worked in fraud for many years - you need to think big data for analysis. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

7:56pm Wed 30 Jul 14

bicesterlady says...

Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud.


When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together.
Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud. When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together. bicesterlady
  • Score: 0

9:45pm Wed 30 Jul 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

bicesterlady wrote:
Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud.


When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together.
But when does a temporary guest become a boarder and as such the the occupier lose their single person discount?

I imagine the occupier would be very cross when they get caught...
[quote][p][bold]bicesterlady[/bold] wrote: Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud. When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together.[/p][/quote]But when does a temporary guest become a boarder and as such the the occupier lose their single person discount? I imagine the occupier would be very cross when they get caught... Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

12:35pm Thu 31 Jul 14

King Joke says...

Bicesterlady, can't we just repel boarders?
Bicesterlady, can't we just repel boarders? King Joke
  • Score: 0

12:50pm Thu 31 Jul 14

bicesterlady says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
bicesterlady wrote:
Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud.


When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together.
But when does a temporary guest become a boarder and as such the the occupier lose their single person discount?

I imagine the occupier would be very cross when they get caught...
But that's nothing to do with benefits & those issues will remain with councils
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]bicesterlady[/bold] wrote: Councils have been using data matching for years with great success to fight fraud. When the fraud crosses boarders, I should imagine the councils involved work together.[/p][/quote]But when does a temporary guest become a boarder and as such the the occupier lose their single person discount? I imagine the occupier would be very cross when they get caught...[/p][/quote]But that's nothing to do with benefits & those issues will remain with councils bicesterlady
  • Score: 0

12:56pm Thu 31 Jul 14

King Joke says...

You're right 'boarders' (sic) have nothing to do with benefits so why did you bring them up?
You're right 'boarders' (sic) have nothing to do with benefits so why did you bring them up? King Joke
  • Score: 0

3:59pm Thu 31 Jul 14

bicesterlady says...

Just realised my mistake....
Just realised my mistake.... bicesterlady
  • Score: 0

8:33pm Thu 31 Jul 14

King Joke says...

Biceserlady - now worries.

Andrew - curse those tiresome parents who fancy having a career and caring for their children or seeking a life outside of work. How dare they think of having both, how inconsiderate.
Biceserlady - now worries. Andrew - curse those tiresome parents who fancy having a career and caring for their children or seeking a life outside of work. How dare they think of having both, how inconsiderate. King Joke
  • Score: 0

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