BENEFITS and council tax fraud totalling more than £124,000 were uncovered in Rossendale last year.

During 2018/19, the council received 168 allegations of fraud from various sources such as anonymous referrals, the council’s online fraud referral form, and the housing benefit and council tax processing team.

Referrals were also generated from proactive work, such as the child care cost exercise.

During the 2018/19 year, 97 cases were referred to the Department for Work and Pensions for their consideration.

The DWP's criminal investigation team issued 64 requests for information in relation to their investigations of housing benefit.

As a result of the fraud and compliance officer involvement and investigations, overpayments of housing benefit and council tax support totalling £124,859.44 were raised in 2018/19.

Council officer Carol Walker said: “The fraud and compliance officer has signed up to a national offer of joint working with officers from the Department for Work and Pensions on allegations of fraud which include council tax support.

“This is a voluntary scheme.

“Suitably identified cases will be jointly investigated by the fraud and compliance officer and a criminal investigator from the DWP.

“This includes close liaison during the investigation and the lawful sharing of evidence obtained.

“Once the evidence gathering process is complete, the customer will be interviewed under caution, by both officers at the same time.

“The DWP will refer cases to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration of legal proceedings being taken on both the DWP and Local Authority offences.

“In common with all other public bodies, Rossendale Council is potentially vulnerable to fraud, either internally by its employees, or externally from members of the public.

“The council has an on-going duty to protect the public purse.”