Can You Spot a Cheater?
People in North Staffordshire are being encouraged to report their suspicions of fraud as part of a long-term council partnership to protect the public purse.
The “Spot the Cheater” public awareness campaign is being relaunched in Stoke-on-Trent, and extended to cover Newcastle-under-Lyme for the first time, following combined efforts to tackle corruption.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to make it even more difficult for fraudsters to operate by joining resources and targeting them more effectively, sharing a greater amount of intelligence and working across council boundaries.
The Staffordshire Counter Fraud Partnership, which launched in April 2019, has resulted in more than £3 million being saved during the first year through the identification of almost 200 cases of criminal activity which can include wrongly claiming Council Tax discounts, business rates, insurance and the misuse of blue badges among others.
Now, residents are being asked to play their part by informing the councils about possible fraudulent activities.
Spot the Cheater campaigns will focus on different themes, starting with housing tenancy fraud which is particularly common. Offences include subletting a council/social housing property without permission, providing false information in a housing application, failing to use a property as the principal home and abandoning the property or selling the key to a third party.
Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Cabinet member for finance and efficiency, said: “The Borough Council is committed to ensuring the best use of its resources on behalf of taxpayers. It will not tolerate any form of fraud under any circumstances. The monetary value lost is significant which impacts on services and undermines the achievement of our objectives.
“Working together in this way is really boosting our efforts to prevent opportunities, detect incidents early, deal with investigations in a prompt, thorough and professional manner and pursue criminal prosecutions on all possible occasions with the ultimate aim of stopping public funds from being abused.
“Fraudsters don’t necessarily operate within council boundaries. The partnership is already achieving great results but we are asking more people to come forward and tell us about their concerns so that we can investigate them.
“The protection of the public purse is everyone’s business and I would encourage anyone with concerns to contact the joint fraud hub.”
Other councils in Staffordshire are also being encouraged to join the partnership.
Councillor Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “Our investigators work hard to root out those who wrongly reckon they can cheat the system and get away with it. Non benefit frauds have a far greater direct financial and social harm impact on local people and local taxpayers.
“Through the creation of the Staffordshire Counter Fraud Partnership we can now identify emerging fraud risks across boundaries and develop joined up strategies to tackle these. Partnership-wide fraud reporting mechanisms have also been implemented making it easier for residents to report their suspicions.
“We are now building a strong anti-fraud culture across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The city council has a zero tolerance approach towards fraud and will always apply the full force of the law to prosecute where appropriate.”
Anyone can report suspected fraud by calling the fraud hotline on 01782 236800 or online at www.stoke.gov.uk/fraud. All reports will be treated confidentially and can be made anonymously.
Last updated 13 November 2020
Rate this page
We value your feedback. How do you rate the information on this page?