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COUNCILS TREBLE CONVICTIONS FOR BENEFIT FRAUD IN FOUR YEARS

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On the day Emmerdale's Dawn Woods will learn she is to spend six weeks in prison after being convicted of benefit f...
On the day Emmerdale's Dawn Woods will learn she is to spend six weeks in prison after being convicted of benefit fraud, the Local Government Association has warned other potential swindlers face joining her behind bars if they rip off tax payers.

New figures released today have revealed the number of people convicted of benefit fraud following a council prosecution has almost tripled from 1,732 to 4,688 in the last four years (1).

The LGA has stressed councils are willing to see that figure rise in their on-going war against the benefit cheats that are costing the taxpayer nationally almost£1billion a year.

Typical scams include people:

* Receiving housing and council tax benefit whilst claiming to be unemployed but working full-time

* Claiming under false identities

* Pretending to be single parents

* Failing to declare incomes or changes in circumstances on housing benefit claims

Sandy Bruce Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, said:

'Benefit fraud is not a victimless offence. These criminals are cheating the tax payer and stealing money that could be spent on the genuinely vulnerable.

'Councils adopt a zero tolerance approach to this abuse of public funds. The message to the fraudsters is clear - try and con the system and you will end up behind bars.

'Local authorities will continue to work closely with the Department of Work and Pensions to prosecute people who commit benefit fraud.'

Notes

(1) Figures obtained from Hansard column 30 March 2006: Column 1192W. Local authorities issued 5,544 people with a court summons for benefit fraud in 2004/05, resulting in 4,688 convictions. In 2001/02 - the first year that figures were available - 2,101 court summons were issued and 1,732 people were convicted.

Councils also prosecute employers or landlords who fail to co-operate with benefit fraud enquiries.

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