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Gravesham Borough Council (Benefit Fraud Inspectorate)

Work and Pensions written statement – made on 5th April 2005.

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Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection report on Gravesham borough council was published today and copies have been placed in the Library.

In 2003–04, Gravesham borough council administered some £21 million in housing benefits, about 41 per cent. of its gross revenue expenditure. Between April 2001 and March 2004 the council raised only two administrative penalties and no formal cautions or prosecutions had been made. Weaknesses in counter-fraud work included a lack of up-to-date policies and procedures, limited awareness of benefit fraud as an issue and ineffective work with Jobcentre Plus and the Pension Service.

However, some progress had been made since the appointment of a benefits manager and a fraud and inspections manager, including the completion of 48 investigations, with three sanctions administered and the recruitment of four staff to carry out reviews of postal claims and home visits from October 2004. There are also plans to recruit two more fraud investigators.

The performance development team is now working with the council to help develop a long-term performance improvement strategy for the counter-fraud unit.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and may ask the council for its proposals in response to the BFPs findings.