Borough targets benefit fraud

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ealing is to crack down on organised benefit frauds. The west London council lost pounds 452,000 through fraud during the past financial year, more than half from unlawful claims for housing benefit.

The rest stemmed mainly from false claims for student benefits.

The chief element of the clamp-down is more stringent screening of job applicants, especially for posts giving access to computer databases and payment information.

Officers will be double checking on records of previous work and character histories, as well as following up all references from former employers.

Ealing has also threatened to prosecute fraudsters.

A spokeswoman explained that the borough acts as an agent for the Government when dealing with benefits and so the loss was not to the council as such.

The chairman of the finance committee, Philip Portwood, urged vigilance 'in the face of an increasing problem in society'.

'We see the fight against fraud as a major priority. Many people depend on benefits and we want to be sure that all the money available goes into the pockets of those who need and deserve it.'

Mr Portwood added that the measures was being implemented and he hoped that it would be fully operational within the next few months.

The borough will be increasing co-operation with the police and other agencies.