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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The government was beginning to win the war against fraud, junior work and pensions minister Malcolm Wicks told MPs.

Fraud had been reduced by about 10% above the government's target for income support and jobseeker's allowance. Of the 370,000 housing benefit cases that were investigated fraud was established in 100,000 cases, and a weekly saving was claimed.

Andrew Robathan, Conservative MP for Blaby, asked what targets his department had set local authorities for benefit fraud prosecutions.

Mr Wicks said that until now the government had been hampered by a shortage of information about housing benefit fraud. This year, however, a continuous measure of the level of such fraud had been introduced. 'When we have that data, we will consider the appropriateness of, and scope for, setting targets to reduce fraud.

Mr Robathan said last year about 460,000 suspected cases of benefit fraud were reported by local authorities, of which 1,100 were successfully prosecuted. In the last financial year only 42% of local councils successfully prosecuted anyone at all.

He asked: 'Is it not the case that we have heard a great deal of talk and spin about cracking down on fraud, but we have seen precious little action? There is no evidence that fraud is being reduced substantially at a time when it should be going right down'.

Mr Wicks said he tended to agree that there should be more prosecutions locally. 'When we have the data about housing benefit fraud I shall be sympathetic to considering the idea of having local targets for prosecutions as well as for fraud reduction', he added.

Hansard 12 Nov: Column 565-566

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