NEARLY £1 million claimed by benefits cheats has been clawed back into the public purse over three years across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire as a result of investigations by local authorities.
Figures which were released by East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council, following a request from the Mail, show that between April 2010 and August 2013 a total of £974,920 has been recovered.
The total for East Staffordshire was £311,759 and for South Derbyshire £663,161.
This was as a result of officers from the two councils’ fraud investigation units gathering intelligence and obtaining evidence against people suspected of claiming money not rightfully theirs.
It has led to 57 benefits cheats being prosecuted in East Staffordshire since April 2010, while a further 56 were brought before the courts in South Derbyshire during the same period.
In East Staffordshire, there were also 43 cautions and three administrative penalties imposed on offenders. South Derbyshire administered 68 cautions and 22 penalties.
Bob Wheeler (pictured left), leader of South Derbyshire District Council, said: “Benefit fraud is an attack on every hard-working taxpayer who plays by the rules.
“The council is working hard to prevent a small minority from stealing from taxpayers so that support can be focused on those who need help the most.”
He said that money clawed back from ill-gotten gains could be spent helping those most in need and further improving public services.
Last week, it was revealed that people convicted in court of benefit fraud could now face up to 10 years behind bars under the Fraud Act instead of the maximum of seven years under social security laws.
Peter Davies, professional services team leader at East Staffordshire Borough Council, said: “Most of the calls we get on the hotline are about people living together. They either come to us or the Department for Work and Pensions. Then it’s just a matter of checking all we can.
“The more information we get the better.”
Sal Khan, head of service commissioning at the borough council, said: “The end line is you know what you’re entitled to.
“One of the roles we have got is to try to encourage new claimants to come to our customer service centre to have a meeting and find out exactly what they are entitled to.
“We have got things in place to help people out.”