Royal Borough housing benefit overpaid by almost £1m

Royal Borough housing benefit overpaid by almost £1m

Simon Meechan

Royal Borough housing benefit overpaid by almost £1m

The way the Royal Borough claws back housing benefit is being reviewed after nearly £1m has been overpaid to claimants in the last six months.

Since April 1 a total of £980,000 has been paid out that should not have.

The figure includes £498,000 attributed to claimant error, £329,000 to fraud, £48,000 down to council mistakes and £105,000 in other errors.

Claims are only classed as fraud when a succesful prosecution is launched.

The authority has got back £440,000 and says it is looking at improving systems in place because the figures do not meet its recovery target.

It is also still chasing £671,000 of the £2,166,000 overpaid during the last financial year, in which it issued £36m of housing benefit.

Cllr Simon Dudley, cabinet member for finance, said focus is on ensuring outstanding overpayments are 'recovered as swiftly as possible'.

"It is important that those who are entitled to benefits receive and are paid the correct amount," he added.

"It is also imperative that we take the appropriate action to recover public money that has been paid either because of fraudulent activity or claimant error."

Increased resource will be provided to the finance team.

Deductions can also be made from benefits payments where people have been claiming beyond their entitlement 'in error' because a change in circumstances has not been reported or relevant information not provided.

Other tools at the council's disposal include court hearings and the use of bailiffs.

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