In response to a posting on Hampton Online by Cllr. Roberts under the 'Community Columnists' section the issue he raised was regarding value for money on a proposed RuT Council Consultation. May i suggest the envelopes to each household contain additional papers whereby residents can bring to the Councils attention areas within the Borough that give cause for concern especially Benefit Fraud where people claim 25% discount on supposed single (adult) occupancy of an individual property.It would be interesting to know how many homes in the Borough claim this discount although under the guise of Data Protection we would surely be denied the answer.

Does the Council carry out any checks on these homes or do they just take the occupants 'word for it'?

The discount of 25% on the Council charge in this Borough would amount to 0000's of pounds, they can't all be genuine.

 

yours (with no political affiliation)

 

 

T

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Hello Thomas

Thank you for raising the small matter of my article. I did consider posting a link here myself but was concerned that it would look like the sort of shameless self publicising that would have made Neil and Christine Hamilton blush.

I would urge people to at least take a look at the accompanying press release on the news pages as I think it's a point of which people should be aware. At a time of widespread cuts in public services is it really the best use of council resources to print and post a survey where the projected take up is estimated to be just 5%-10% of borough households, at a cost of over £40,000 for printing and postage alone. It's not a partisan point, no matter how much the current administration would claim, I'd be saying exactly the same were it being considered by the Lib Dems. It can be done more effectively and more cheaply. The simple option of sending the survey out with the Council Tax demands would surely save the entire postage costs as those would be being sent out anyway.

Now then, Benefit Fraud. I'm sure that there'd be no reason why that information should be withheld as a Data Protection Issue. Have you considered a Freedom of Information Request? I'll see what I can come up with and let you know

Best Wishes


Gareth
Hello Thomas

I've been able to get the information you require. I e-mailed the council this morning and received the following reply. The questions are mine, the responses direct quotes from the officer

Q1. Are figures available as to how many households in the borough currently claim the discount?

As at 1/9/10 = 24812 out of approx 81,500 properites. This is just over 30% and in comparison with other London Authorities this percentage is relatively low.


Q.2 What steps are taken to ensure that claims are genuine?

We review all cases every year - residents have to complete form with their current status and return to the revenues and benefits office.

Currently we are working on an exception report produced by the Audit Commision which has matched our single person discount claims against the electoral register - any case which has more than one person on the electoral register is flagged up to us and we are investigating these mismatches. This exercise will take place every two years.

If someone claims a discount going back more than 6 months then they have to produce a statutory declaration to confirm the period. Where appropriate we will check with the electoral register at the time the application is recieved.

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I hope this helps, Thomas.

Best Wishes

Gareth
Anyone fraudulently claiming single person discount on their council tax would not put other occupants of their property on the electoral roll. They are not that stupid.
Well, Thomas, as a councillor I would urge you to report your concerns to the council. If what you say is the case then it looks like a clear case of benefit fraud.

Your suggestion of the sleuths is something of a sticky one. A couple of years ago you may remember the media storm about councils checking up on whether people actually lived within a catchment area for good local schools. The cry went up against council snooping, abuse of the anti-terrorist laws and all that. Of course catching the cheats would be excellent, but what about the many thousands of people who legitimately claim yet find their affairs 'snooped' on.

Difficult. Or is it?
Hi Gerrard,

Oh dear, so we have some dishonest people living in our leafy suburb, bit like the fiddling MPs really. (But not Vince Cable I hasten to say). I am sure not all have studied at the Academy for Fiddling, Switching, Cheating and General Dishonesty. Based at The Palace of Westminister!!! Oh well 'Set a thief to catch a thief. Regards. Bryan.
Hi Thomas,

I am getting old, I thought your first name was Gerrard. Why I should think this, only he above would know that. Sorry again. Yours aye. Bryan
I'm sure that Brian doesn't need me to leap to his defence, but I think you're being a tad harsh there, Thomas. If Hampton with its proximity to Bushy Park and the proliferation of trees along a very large percentage of its roads can't be described as a 'Leafy Suburb' what can?

As for the various 'white collar' fiddles you describe, well one does have to question where does the onus of responsibilty lie? Solely on the person fraudulently claiming the benefits or does it extend to those people who stand by and watch but say nothing?
Thank you Gareth, for bailing me out. I have lived in my 'Leafy Suburb' (I don't know about anyone else) for 77years.There have been many changes, not all have been bad and many have been good. I was a member of the Hampton Society Committee who with others, negotiated with the Developers for the reinstatement of Gander Goose Green (A leafy green). I also believe as a Royal Parks senior police officer for 40 years and as a regular and TA soldier for 39 years, I thought I did live in 'The Real World'. However, I must have given the impression that I condone dishonesty and believe 'Two wrongs do make a right'. As a 'Right Winger' nothing could be futher from the truth. The point I was trying to make is that half the populatinon of the UK from top to the bottom regard 'Fiddling' to be OK and there is very little anybody can do about it. Laws are made for honest people. We would never have had the MPs expenses scandal had it not been for the Daily Telegraph. Whenever I put my TV on I see MPs who had their hand in the till to the tune of thousands of pounds telling me how I should pull my belt in and what I should put in my dustbin. I just love watching the young lady who thought when her child minder answered the telephone that made her a secretary, you could not make it up. I have no hesitation in repeating that Saint Vince came out of the scandal whiter than white and I am not a supporter of any political party. I think I should now shut up for a few weeks!!! Regards. Bryan.

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