Housing officials in bribes inquiry

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The Independent Online
ELEVEN former council employees are among 25 people who have been charged or are are being questioned over a multi-million pound series of council house frauds in Brent, north London.

Allegations against the 11, all former housing department employees, include taking rent for empty properties, accepting bribes and providing homes in return for sexual favours.

Scotland Yard detectives and housing officials are still investigating the role of three of the officials. Eight have been charged so far, including four this week. One councillor is believed to be among the people still being investigated.

Inquiries into the housing department have been under way for almost 18 months, although allegations of corruption were made by MPs in 1986 after it was disclosed that the council had failed to collect 63 per cent of its rents.

It is understood that allegations relate to a number of rent 'scams' and bribes involving as many as 200 of the borough's properties.

According to Brian Queen, the director of housing, and Martin Cheeseman, the divisional director, six methods of perpetrating frauds have been identified by investigators. They include area housing officers renting out vacated properties via third parties without notifying the department of the vacancy. Detectives have been investigating cases in which it is alleged that officers and members of the public have let up to nine properties at as much as pounds 100 a week each.

In other cases, officers at area housing offices are alleged to have accepted bribes of up to pounds 500 to falsify records to give the impression that an applicant had a right to inherit a property from a tenant who had died.

Inquiries are also understood to have included the possibility that officers accepted sexual favours in return for providing a council property.

Other housing officers have been investigated over allegations that they provided homes for themselves, their friends and families. Some officers and a number of members of the public who acted as third parties in renting out empty properties are expected to be questioned again.

Mr Queen and Mr Cheeseman said the inquiry, initiated by council officers, had resulted in an improvement in control procedures and helped to cut the number of unused council properties from 2,000 to 350, or 2 per cent of stock.

The number of families in bed and breakfast accommodation in the borough had fallen from about 600 to about 150, Mr Queen said.