Fraud totalling more than £400k detected by Edinburgh Council

Fraudsters stole more than £400,000 in benefits payments and improper use of council housing last year.

Monday, 15th October 2018, 1:21 pm
Updated Monday, 15th October 2018, 1:27 pm
General view of Edinburgh Council HQ.

Last year, 531 “competent allegations” were made to the city council by members of the public, leading to 658 issues being reviewed. In 2017-18 six allegations were also made against council employees – but two were unfounded, including one “potentially vexatious” case.

Around £150,00 of the detected fraud centred around benefits – as Edinburgh gears up for the controversial Universal Credit to be rolled out next month.

During 2017-18, the city council detected more than £418,000 of customer fraud. The authority’s Corporate Fraud Investigation Team (CFIT) uncovered 15 illegally sublet council properties totalling revenue of £270,000. As part of a probe into fraudulent school placement applications, 16 cases were investigated which “resulted in a number of placements being withdrawn”.

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Investigations are still ongoing, but the council expects to recover the majority of the money.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council does not tolerate any kind of fraud and will always take action against those who are claiming what they are not entitled to.

“Our dedicated team have delivered a number of anti-fraud campaigns which have proven useful in helping the council to both ascertain whether fraud is taking place and to take the appropriate action. We have very robust whistle-blowing and audit arrangements in place which supplement the work of this team internally.

“Allegations made against staff, although very rare, are always thoroughly investigated and fraud detection and prevention activities are detailed in a range of council policies which are regularly reviewed and communicated to staff.”

Work in partnership with the National Fraud Initiative revealed another £58,500 including £48,717 from fraudsters obtaining the pension payments of a dead person.

Green finance spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett, said: “Fraud takes many forms. In the interest of fairness it is important that the council 
acts consistently and evenly across all these forms. Where people are facing hardship it’s always best to contact council services to see what help can be given.”

A council employee was investigated over the theft of £270 of cash which resulted in “appropriate action being taken” and “more robust controls introduced” including limiting access to fewer people. Another employee admitted to misusing the public transport season ticket advance as an interest free loan of £630.