THURROCK Council staff were out speaking to residents last week as part of the ‘National Fraud Prevention Week’ across three areas; Thurrock, Castle Point and Southend. Cllr Shane Hebb, the Cabinet member whose portfolio includes tackling fraud, claims the increase ‘is a testament to the team delivering good results’ and ‘residents becoming more astute and reporting illegal practices’.
“The fraud team, by definition, has to work covertly in much of what it does. Awareness weeks such as this give us some space to acknowledge the good work the team does, but also to encourage more people to come forward when they spot something that isn’t right. “There are several types of fraud and economic crime that can affect council services. The council is committed to taking action against anybody who tries to defraud the public purse.”
Some examples of the fraud the council investigates includes: housing benefit, housing tenancy, council tax, business rates, blue badge for disabled parking, social care, insurance, money laundering and council employee and contractor fraud, bribery or corruption. Cllr Hebb added: “It is disappointing we have to employ a team of people – an excellent team of people to combat those who are trying to steal from the public purse. That said, the team is doing something right as we’ve been approached by other agencies and councils to carry out investigations on their behalf.
“With a successful prosecution, the investigating agency is awarded a financial incentive through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), which means the service is actually financially self-sustainable. “But, we do need the help of residents – if you think you know of suspect practices, you can report it anonymously for the team to look into. If you suspect it, report it.”