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South Somerset District Council Reports on Benefit Fraud

Friday 7 May 2010, 17:10
By Dawn Haydon

A Yeovil man has been ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community after an investigation revealed he had fraudulently claimed over £3600 in benefits. The South Somerset District Council investigation discovered that Nigel Turner (55), of Runnymede Road, had been claiming the hefty amount in housing and council tax benefit for over a year. To claim the money he failed to declare that he was receiving tax credits, and also that someone else had moved in with him.

In Yeovil Magistrates Court Mr Turner pleaded guilty to all charges, receiving the community punishment order which much be carried out within a year. He must also pay £175 costs and return all of the overpaid benefit to South Somerset District Council.

A spokesperson for Legal and Corporate Services at South Somerset District Council said, "£3631 is a lot of money; money that should be directed to those who really need it, and not to those who unfairly claim it by withholding information. For this reason South Somerset District Council pursues all cases of potential benefit fraud and in fact our small team has intercepted nearly a quarter of a million pounds in just the last year, meaning the money will be returned. That's not an easy task but one worth doing.

"The team is efficient - so that is bad news for anyone thinking of committing benefit fraud."

£240,000 was the amount clawed back by South Somerset District Council's investigations team over the past year as part of its work to eliminate benefit fraud.

Between April 2009 and April 2010 the team successfully convicted thirteen people and cautioned a further four benefit thieves – averaging one or two prosecutions per month. A further nine fully investigated cases are pending court hearings in the coming months which could see tens of thousands of pounds more returned to council taxpayers.

The 2009/10 total is nearly £80,000 more than the amount intercepted the year before.

Alison Creagh, Senior Investigations Officer at South Somerset District Council said, "The figure is so high because we're hitting the high amount benefit fraud and overpayments as well as more minor incidents. It is really important that we look into all cases to make sure money is returned to where it is most needed - for those who are entitled to it. I am pleased that we are clearly making a real difference where it counts."

Out of the cases pursued, the team brought justice to a Merriott man who stole £13,000 in benefits despite having £32,000 in secret savings, a Wincanton man who claimed benefits over seven years by failing to declare his earnings, and a Yeovil woman who had been convicted for benefit fraud just three years earlier but had not learned her lesson. South Somerset District Council worked with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to unravel many of the cases, and its own benefits team to identify unusual payments.

Ms Creagh added, "If we suspect benefit fraud we have many powers to access information to support a case. We use data matching - a process that compares data held by government departments, such as DWP and HM Revenue and Customs which identifies if details of work, capital and changes in other benefits have been declared. We can also look at savings, employment details, information on private pensions, and bank and building society accounts to name a few."

Court sentences ranged from conditional discharges, fines and hundreds of hours of community service work, to curfew orders and tagging - as well as paying back the overpaid money and in most cases additional costs were ordered.

To tell South Somerset District Council about someone you know who is committing benefit fraud, telephone the Investigations Team on 01935 462208 or write to Investigation Section, Freepost NAT9647, Yeovil, BA20 2BF. Alternatively, you can contact the National Fraud Hotline free on 0800 328 6340 (Textphone 0800 328 6341), or email

All reports of fraud can be made anonymously and are treated in the strictest confidence.

South Somerset District Council's Investigations team has identified £239,958.94 of fraudulently claimed benefits from April 2009 to April 2010 - that's nearly double the figure for 2008-9 and there are still a further ten court cases awaiting hearing.

Issued by: Dawn Haydon, South Somerset District Council Communications Team.

Tel: 01935 462130
See our website at

"South Somerset District Council - an organisation consistently delivering an improving quality of life for all."


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