Council representatives from across the East Sussex region yesterday joined forces to officially launch the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub at Seaford’s Martello Tower with a new hotline number, logo and strapline.
The East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub aims to tackle fraud throughout the rural, urban and metropolitan areas of the county, and sees councils in the region come together to share intelligence and reduce fraudulent activity, such as council tax fraud, procurement fraud, housing tenancy and right to buy fraud, blue badge and business rate fraud.
Alongside award winning anti-fraud teams in East Sussex, the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub has been able to develop a coherent partnership since its formation in 2015. Supported by funding available from the Department of Communities and Local Government, councils throughout East Sussex have combined resources to create innovative and stronger fraud referral systems across the region. This initiative is part of a nationwide funding programme, which has seen over 55 other councils throughout the UK also set up partnerships and groups during the same period to fight fraud in their local areas.
Representatives from Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council, Wealden District Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Hastings Borough Council, Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council also took the opportunity to reflect on the last year of progress, which has seen the partnership successfully exceed forecast total financial savings of £1,290,000 by over 25%.
In addition to offering interviews and Q&A with media representatives, the hub members ensured they had a visible presence in the local community, offering information about its services. Some of the fraudulent activity already uncovered by the hub includes cases relating to social housing tenancy and blue badge claims, something that the hub is continuing to tackle.
From left: Debbie Alais, Housing Benefit Officer at Rother District Council; Councillor Bill Giles, Lead Member for Finance at Lewes District Council; Louise Powell, Corporate Fraud Investigations Manager at Eastbourne Borough Council and Co-ordinator for the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub; Chris Stephens, Housing Services Manager at Wealden District Council; Cllr Ann Norman, Chair of the Audit and Standards Committee at Brighton & Hove City Council; Russell Banks, Head of Assurance at East Sussex County Council; Tony Lockey, Income Protection Manager at Rother District Council; Tom Davies, Head of Audit at Hastings Borough Council; Graham Liddell, Head of Audit at Brighton & Hove City Council; Bob Allen, Principal Audit Manager at Lewes District Council
Louise Powell, Co-ordinator for the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub states: “Since April 2015, the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub has proven fraud in over 600 cases throughout the region, and has even exceeded forecast performance figures. We are dedicated to providing a serious deterrent to the small number of people who are intent on defrauding the public purse, and as we progress we will also be looking at fraudulent claims on local government grants and false claims on social care payments (personal budgets) to ensure that the funds go to those who actually need them.”
The East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub is developing additional counter fraud strategies and future action plans, whilst operating existing services across the county and fostering links with other public and private sector partners. In the meantime, members of the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub will continue to work closely with members of the public to ensure allegations of suspected fraud are reported and investigated, so that funding can continue to go to those who need it the most.
If you notice any suspicious fraudulent activity in your neighbourhood or at your place of work, such as misuse of blue badges, business rate or council tax avoidance, sub-letting of council housing or procurement fraud, please call the East Sussex Counter Fraud Hub hotline Freephone number on 0800 731 7039.